Regents object to including K-12 in master plan

By Michelle Locke, The Associated Press
Thursday July 18, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — University of California officials are reacting warily to an ambitious proposal to bring the entire state education system, from preschool to Ph.D.s, under the same organizational framework. 

Major concerns include a proposal to drop extra credit for honors courses and a plan to create a new commission responsible for approving all education programs. 

California’s public universities and community colleges now operate under principles set out in the 40-year-old Master Plan for Higher Education. 

The new project, started in 1999 and being carried out by a legislative committee, would extend that planning document to include the K-12 system. 

On Wednesday, UC regents meeting for their regular session in San Francisco raised a number of objections to a rough draft of the new plan released in May. 

“My main concern is that ... we don’t destroy the benefits that the current plan has given us,” said Regent John Davies. 

Calls by The Associated Press to the committee working on the report were not immediately returned Wednesday. 

The master plan was written to cope with the wave of college-aged Baby Boomers that added 600,000 students to the higher education system within a single decade. 

Legislators say bringing California’s troubled K-12 system under the plan will provide a coherent framework for improvement. Several other states have already streamlined their system. In Florida, for instance, all public education is under a single state board. 

UC officials agree higher education must collaborate with the K-12 system, but they have problems with some of the changes proposed in the draft report. 

Regents indicated they’d be unlikely to support a proposal to eliminate extra credit for advanced-placement classes. Many California public universities give five points for an “A” in such a course because it is more difficult than a regular class. 

Legislators say that’s unfair, since about 15 percent of the state’s public high schools didn’t offer advanced-placement courses in the 1999-2000 school year. Schools without the courses tended to be predominantly made up of minority and low-income students. 

In 1999, regents rejected a proposal to drop the extra credit from one point to half a point. 

Regardless of what the plan ultimately says on extra points, regents must approve any change to UC admissions policy, since the system is not required under state law to follow all policies passed by the Legislature. 

Another change that UC opposes is a plan to replace the California Postsecondary Education Commission with a new commission responsible for approving K-16 educational programs. UC officials say they’re worried that the new commission will be overwhelmed by the problems of the K-12 system. 

UC is proposing keeping the postsecondary commission and giving the new commission review rather than approval power over higher education. 

UC President Richard C. Atkinson said some of the draft report wording may be inadvertent. 

For instance, a section of the draft referring to transferring community college students says they can go to “any” CSU or UC campus. In fact, admission to the top campuses in UC’s nine-campus system is very competitive. 

UC has representatives working with the legislative committee on the new report, but regents said their comments don’t always make it into the final report. 

“Many of the conclusions that seem to be written into the report are not the result of the committees that met,” said Regent Judith Hopkinson. “There are hidden agendas here.”