K-12 education system
The road begins with better data
The nation’s educational gaps have the “economic equivalent of a permanent national recession,” costing between $310 billion and $525 billion each year—roughly 2% to 4% of the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S.
California once had one of the finest education systems in the nation. Now, the state lags behind most others on measures of academic performance, including ranking lowest on test scores for fourth grade reading and third lowest on eighth grade math. Moreover, California’s achievement gap is pervasive and persistent, with Latino and African American children continuing to trail behind their white peers. If current trends continue, California is forecasted to have a shortage of one million college graduates by 2025, when 41% of all California jobs will likely require a bachelor’s degree but only 35% of Californians will have one.
Rebuilding a quality K-12 education system in California will prepare today’s children for tomorrow’s workforce, putting the state on the path to a sustainable economic recovery.
In the 1950s and 60s, California invested in children’s education with great results. But since, the state has underfunded its education system; per pupil spending has remained below the national average since 1982. During the current economic crisis, California’s schools were among the hardest hit. The state’s K-12 budget for 2009-10 is $66.7 billion, down from $71.2 billion just two years ago. It makes sense for California to prioritize children’s education now, a smart investment in securing the state’s future. Higher academic achievement translates to:
- Higher state revenues, through taxes and other contributions;
- Fewer expenses, in reduced need for public support services; and
- Increased abilities to drive innovation and growth in the state.
Rebuilding a quality K-12 education system in California will prepare today’s children for tomorrow’s workforce and put the state on the path to a sustainable economic recovery.
Using Data to Improve
California needs a much better information system for K-12 education in order to improve policy-making, instruction and learning. Currently advancing in Sacramento, such a system is the first step toward improving educational outcomes for children—creating a culture of continuous improvement for public education throughout the state, from top to bottom. The new comprehensive information system for education is fundamental to building the foundation for the monumental finance and governance reforms that also are required to fix the state’s education system.
Current Status & Timeline
Throughout 2008-09, Children Now was instrumental in every aspect of moving the comprehensive information system for education forward, including creating the long-term strategic plan, generating broad-based support, securing needed legislative commitments, and other wide-ranging development activities. More specifically, our work has resulted in:
- The passage of Senate Bill 1298, which initiated California’s new, statewide student information system;
- $24 million in budget for the establishment of a student data system;
- Ensuring California’s alignment with the eligibility requirements for federal funding opportunities supporting state education information systems, via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA);
- The crafting and passage of Senate Bill 19, which removes any barriers to the use of achievement data linked to individual teachers and principals for the purpose of evaluation—a critical step in ensuring that California is eligible to compete for the federal Race to the Top funding.
Figure: The Path to Implementation
(Click to enlarge image)
Governance & Finance Reform: Finding Common Ground
In the context of a down economy, it’s an ideal time for California to take a long-term view and have a meaningful discourse about education reform and investment—so that we’re ready to finally address these difficult issues when the economy recovers. The state’s future economic outlook depends on us addressing critical issues head on, and education has to be front and center on California’s recovery agenda. Children Now and its partners in the education reform effort have the expertise and resources needed to engage the business and education communities and leaders throughout the state in a productive conversation.
The need for comprehensive governance and finance reform of California’s K-12 education system is well documented and broadly accepted:
- Public opinion polls show broad-based support for more funding coupled with major reforms—view Children Now’s bipartisan poll;
- Comprehensive research, entitled Getting Down to Facts: School Finance and Governance in California, details what’s needed; and
- Interviews of opposing interest groups show consensus around required reforms that mirror research findings—view the key findings.
Yet, opposing political parties and interest groups remain divided and have lost sight of what’s in the best interests of children and the state’s future. Children Now is working to illuminate and realize the “win-win” that exists for all parties in reforming California’s education system.