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Education translates to success
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State Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The key to alleviating poverty, strengthening the middle class, and preparing students for the workforce starts with providing a quality education. Our students deserve the opportunity to learn from effective teachers - and our teachers deserve to work in an environment that allows them to grow and excel.

My Assembly Republican colleagues and I introduced a package of education reform proposals earlier this session. Parents, teachers and communities across the State were cheering us on, hoping to capitalize on the success of the recent Vergara v. California. In 2014, the Vergara decision deemed our current teacher tenure and dismissal practices unconstitutional, as they keep poor-performing teachers in the classroom. Together, we launched our #GreatSchools4CA education reform package in an effort to ensure that we would see would have only the best teachers training our next generation of workers.

One piece of the #GreatSchools4CA package would have required the State Board of Education to update teacher evaluation guidelines, and grade teachers based on effectiveness rather than just evaluating if they are performing at "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" levels.

Unfortunately, political games stalled the progress of these meaningful reforms. By referring these bills to a December "interim hearing" for review - and by scheduling that hearing right before Christmas, the legislative measures were essentially killed without the Assembly Education Committee members having to vote "no" on the record.

Luckily, we have plenty of smart students, parents and teachers who are not fooled by these political games. They understand the need to provide every child with the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to compete in the future job market.

So when it came time for the "interim hearing," which was scheduled right before Christmas, I stood alongside Assemblymembers Catharine Baker and Rocky Chavez and together we fought for the future of our failing education system. Although we made our voices clear, the fight for education reform is not over.

Providing an exceptional education for our children is possible, but only if there are enough concerned parents, educators and students who pressure the forces within our educational system. We need your voice to help us work toward a positive outcome for every California student. Please show your support for these measures by writing to the Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, Assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell, at 1020 N Street, Room 159, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Assemblymember Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, is recognized as a solution-focused reformer. She represents the 12th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes portions of Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties in the Central Valley. Follow her on Twitter: @KristinOlsenCA