LOS ANGELES - Responding to the ACLU of Southern California's call to improve college and career opportunities for the state's high-school students, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today requested $100 million to strengthen college-prep and career-technical classes. The request came in the May budget revision and follows months of discussions among the governor's staff, legislators and ACLU representatives that led to the announced proposals.

'This is an historic step forward for California students,' said ACLU/SC legal director Mark Rosenbaum. 'The Governor is breaking down the institutional walls blocking opportunity for students stuck in low-performing schools, not in 10 or 20 years, but starting this fall. For the first time, the promise of the American dream can be California students' dream too.'

California law already requires higher-education opportunity for all high-school graduates who satisfy the requirements of the state's public universities and colleges. But 55% of California's public high schools do not offer classes students need to qualify for college, and the number of rigorous career-technical classes has been recently slashed. The result, according to UCLA researchers and the Governor's office:

- California sent a smaller percentage (23%) of students to four-year colleges in 2004 than any state other than Mississippi.

- Close to 1 million students each year do not qualify for admission to college or other career paths because they lack access to required courses taught by qualified teachers.

- Nearly two-thirds of these students are Latino and black, and nearly 250,000 attend racially isolated schools.

- Only 16% of career-technical classes satisfy college requirements, limiting students' options and shutting doors.

State law mandates equal opportunity for the state's students regardless of race or income, and the ACLU/SC supports that fundamental right through our litigation and public education. The 2004 settlement of the Williams vs. California lawsuit provided $1 billion to address school conditions that hamper learning, raise the level of teaching, and provide textbooks at low-performing high schools. The ACLU/SC currently sponsors SB 405, which also addresses availability of career-technical and college-eligible classes.

'We agreed with the Governor that Williams was only a first step for California's students,' said Catherine Lhamon, ACLU/SC Racial Justice Director. 'Bridging the college and career gap by funding rigorous courses for kids who want them is critical for California's future.'

The governor's proposal will increase the number of college preparatory and career-technical courses, hire qualified teachers, and improve reporting and accountability measures.

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