March 02, 2007

Last week, our wonderfully dedicated and whip smart Silicon Valley legislator, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, introduced Assembly Bill 577, which would establish an Open Education Resources (OER) Center for the California community colleges as a pilot project within the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. Ira is the second state legislator in the country to author legislation in support of OER (the first was in Utah earlier this year). Ruskin's leadership role is not surprising given his reputation for innovation, intelligence and effective public service. Ruskin is best known as one of the leading environmentalists in the state legislature. Over time, though, his AB 577 seems certain to become one of his most significant legislative accomplishments, assuming he can pull it off, given the positive impact his bill will have on millions of students seeking high-quality higher education opportunities. As Ira understands, OER is not just about reducing the costs of learning materials, including textbooks. It's also about improving the quality of teaching and learning through resource-sharing, collaboration and the more rapid transfer of educational best practices. FHDA Chancellor Martha Kanter and I suggested the idea for this particular piece of legislation to Ruskin last year. But ideas are one thing and action is another. Ruskin deserves full credit for being the second state legislator in the country to act on OER, which has such enormous promise. Special thanks also to Valerie Brown, Ira's very able education policy advisor, who helped craft the initial version of the bill.

Congratulations Ira! If this bill succeeds, generations of students and faculty will be thanking Ira Ruskin for the important role he played in helping to improve higher education and make it more accessible to all.

Now, we just have to get Ira's bill passed and signed into law. More on that in future posts.