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Local teacher announces run for state senate

Education reform a top priority for Chiang in bid for 13th District

Christopher Chiang, a Mountain View High School history teacher, says he is entering the race for the state Senate on a platform of education reform.

"Despite K-12 and public college funding accounting for half the state budget, the state fails one in three students and our focus on tests bring us no closer to readying a 21st century workforce," said Chiang in a Feb. 5 statement announcing his bid for the 13th District seat.

Chiang is running for a newly drawn district which will go into effect in November, and which will cover much of the area that is currently the 11th District represented by State Senator Joe Simitian, who is being termed out. Currently the 13th District covers parts of Mountain View, Sunnyvale and runs all the way down to Gilroy. The newly formed 13th District will run from South San Francisco down to Sunnyvale.

Through his continuing education and involvement in education leadership conferences, Chiang said he has come to believe there is a "disconnect between state laws and what education researchers are saying." Sacramento needs a fresh perspective, Chiang said, and he believes he is the man for the job.

The biggest problem in California schools, according to Chiang, is that not enough is required of teachers. "For me to renew my teaching credential, I just send in a check," he said. "We wouldn't allow that for the medical or legal profession."

He acknowledged that teachers are given incentives to continue their professional development -- in the form of automatic pay raises for attaining graduate units. All too often, those graduate units do little to improve teaching ability, he said.

If elected, Chiang said he plans to push the state to demand more from both teachers and principals, as well as from the colleges and universities that train them. Teachers should be required to undergo meaningful professional development in order to renew their credential and financial penalties should be levied against state teaching colleges that aren't doing a good job, he said.

He proposes "ending state testing at every grade level and replacing it with three rigorous exit exams: elementary, middle and high school, coupled with annual random testing of a sampling of students in all subjects, including the arts."

Additionally, he would like to make it so school districts may apply to get the same waivers that charter schools are eligible for.

Chiang, who describes himself as a moderate Democrat and eighth-year teacher, holds master's degrees in teaching and educational leadership from Stanford and Columbia universities, respectively, and a bachelor's degree from University of California at Irvine. More information regarding Chiang's proposals can be found at his website.

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Correction: A previous version of this story (online and in print) stated that Chiang would be running for the soon-to-be vacated seat of Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara. While Alquist represents the 13th District as it currently stands, the district's boundaries are changing come November. Chiang is running for the new 13th District, which covers much of the area currently represented by Joe Simitian, who will also be termed out in November.

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