In his State of the State speech on Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown made it clear again where he thinks the action should be when it comes to school reform – at the local level.
Instead of “prescriptive commands issued from headquarters here in Sacramento,” he said, the school funding reforms he and the Legislature have put in place “set more general goals” that “put responsibility where it should be” – in the classroom and school. “There is no way the state can micromanage teaching and learning in all the schools from El Centro to Eureka and we shouldn’t even try,” he said.
By stressing local control, Brown continues to try to move California away from the fundamental top-down dynamic of school reform over the past decade and half – in which schools were required to implement sweeping reforms mandated by Washington (the 2002 No Child Left Behind law), and before that by Sacramento (the 1999 Public Schools Accountability Act).
He referred to the more than 300 people who showed up at the State Board of Education meeting last week to testify before the board adopted emergency regulations implementing the Local Control Funding Formula. “That shows interest and real commitment,” he said. But he said, “their work is just beginning.”
“Each local district now has to put into practice what the local funding formula has made possible,” he said. That, together with the new Common Core standards for math and English will be a major challenge for teachers and local administrators, but they are the ones that can make it work, and I have every confidence that they will.”
Drawing on the Oxford English Dictionary, Brown also put forward his clearest definition of subsidiarity to date — that “central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.”
With greater decison-making power over state funds, It will now be up to local school districts to demonstrate just how effective they will be.
Louis Freedberg is the executive director of EdSource. Contact him and follow him on Twitter @louisfr. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.