One immediate consequence of  State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s rebuff of challenger Marshall Tuck is to ensure the continuance of the cohesion in state education policy that has been forged since Gov. Jerry Brown returned to Sacramento four years ago.

“Who is in charge?” is a question that hovered for decades over what State Board of Education President Michael Kirst has described as an inherently “fractured and fractious” education governing structure.  But the last several years have demonstrated that, under the right conditions, dysfunction is not necessarily a constant condition of California politics.

Torlakson’s victory guarantees that there will be continuity on the key reforms underway in California schools, most notably the Common Core State Standards, the new Smarter Balanced assessments to be administered to 3 million California children in the spring, and the dramatic revision of  school funding, including  targeting funds at low-income students, English learners and foster children.

It is impossible to know the extent to which a Tuck victory would have had on these reforms or the reform landscape generally.  But what is clear is that with Brown, Torlakson, and Attorney General Kamala Harris winning reelection, the state’s decision to appeal the  Vergara v. California lawsuit intended to undo teacher tenure and other laws governing teacher employment will go forward.  Tuck had made support for the lawsuit a central issue in his campaign.

In an interview yesterday, Torlakson referred to the “huge positive transformations” that are underway in education in the state, but said they were the result of a “team effort.”  “We have had a State Board of Education, the governor, and myself not always agreeing, but we worked together on different iterations and coming up with a consensus,” Torlakson said.

That has not always been the case in California. Under the U.S. system of education, local school boards are supposed to be the primary decision makers. But over the years their powers have been diminished as a result of changes in how public schools are financed, and multiple mandates emanating from Sacramento and from Washington.

Instead, policy making has been divided among state-level and local elected office holders, an appointed state board of education, and local and county boards, resulting too often in what Kirst calls “policy ping-ponging around.”

California is one of 12 states to have an elected state school superintendent (In most other states, they are appointed by the governor). The superintendent heads up the California Department of Education, but has few actual powers to frame policy. However, he or she does have a big impact on how those policies are implemented. To complicate matters, for more than two decades the governor has appointed a secretary of education or an education advisor to his cabinet. The governor also appoints an 11-member State Board of Education, while the Legislature is the body that actually passes education laws.

Whenever the governor and superintendent of public instruction are from different parties or have different views on education policies – or the Legislature has been controlled by a party different from the governor’s – there have been inevitable tensions and conflict. And that has occurred many times over the past several decades.

Adding to this volatile mix is the outsized influence of the California Teachers Association, representing nearly 300,000 teachers, and the smaller California Federation of Teachers, which are also major players on the policy landscape.

Ever since 1970, when Wilson Riles Sr. defeated conservative icon Max Rafferty in an upset victory that drew national headlines, the superintendent of public instruction post has been occupied by liberal Democrats. Riles served for 12 years, Bill Honig for 10, Delaine Eastin and Jack O’Connell for eight each, and Torlakson for four so far.

During the years when there were Republican governors, the state school superintendent has often been at odds with the governor, as well as his appointed State Board of Education. Relations reached their lowest point during the administration of Gov. Pete Wilson, when the board actually took then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig to court to dilute his powers.

When Brown took office in 2011, he appointed Kirst, a Stanford University professor who has been a close ally on education policy since Brown’s first term as governor in the 1970s, to be president of  the State Board of Education.   Since then Brown has worked unusually closely with the board, touching base with individual board members in late-night telephone conversations. He even attended a board meeting during his first few weeks in office to outline his education philosophy – the first such appearance by a governor in memory.

He also eliminated one potential point of friction – the secretary of education post in his cabinet, along with several staff positions in the governor’s office. Instead, he appointed the same person, Sue Burr, to be executive director of the State Board of Education and act as his chief education policy advisor.

There have been vigorous debates about a range of policies, most notably about the Local Control Funding Formula championed by Gov. Brown. But with the governor and Torlakson both Democrats, and the Legislature controlled by Democrats, it has been possible to resolve differences and enact a range of reforms. A major additional contributor to this consensus has been the fact that the state’s teachers unions have been close allies and supporters of Brown and Torlakson.

As a result, everyone is “reading from the same hymnal,”said Jack O’Connell, who preceded Torlakson in the superintendent’s post, and was a strong Torlakson supporter in the just-completed campaign.

Does any of this make a difference for what actually happens in schools? Former superintendent Honig, who was appointed chairman of the Instructional Quality Commission by the State Board of Education, thinks so.

“It is crucially important for people in the schools that the people in Sacramento work together, that there is a common policy from the governor, the superintendent, and the board,” Honig told California Watch when Gov. Brown took office four years ago. “If there is conflict over all these issues, no one knows what to do. Schools don’t work well with conflict at the top.”

 

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  1. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    SPI Torlakson actually has an ambitious school reform agenda as outlined in "Greatness by Design" to be found here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/documents/greatnessfinal.pdf This reform agenda is unique in that it is not founded on political and ideological wish lists that have been demonstrated to be failures. Greatness by Design is firmly founded on actual research based reforms and policy prescriptions. The document was conceived by the Excellence in Education Task Force which was composed of stakeholders from every sector. Hopefully, … Read More

    SPI Torlakson actually has an ambitious school reform agenda as outlined in “Greatness by Design” to be found here:
    http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/documents/greatnessfinal.pdf

    This reform agenda is unique in that it is not founded on political and ideological wish lists that have been demonstrated to be failures. Greatness by Design is firmly founded on actual research based reforms and policy prescriptions. The document was conceived by the Excellence in Education Task Force which was composed of stakeholders from every sector.

    Hopefully, this agenda can now move forward aggressively. Much of that will depend on a continued improvement in CA’s school funding situation.

  2. Eric Premack 2 years ago2 years ago

    With the exception of the teacher quality and evaluation issue, it appears that there was little daylight between Tuck and Torlakson on key issues before the State Board. Both support Common Core Standards, the Local Control Funding Formula, etc. As such, continuity seemed assured either way. Neither the State Board nor the State Superintendent have much, if any formal legal powers over teacher evaluation matters. The real matter at stake … Read More

    With the exception of the teacher quality and evaluation issue, it appears that there was little daylight between Tuck and Torlakson on key issues before the State Board. Both support Common Core Standards, the Local Control Funding Formula, etc.

    As such, continuity seemed assured either way.

    Neither the State Board nor the State Superintendent have much, if any formal legal powers over teacher evaluation matters. The real matter at stake was a symbolic one–and the bully pulpit that comes with an otherwise disempowered office.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Our only hope is a judge. If we get another bold judge like Treu who really looks at the impact on children of these policies, we’ll be OK. But it could be overturned. There is the possibility that some members of the union will make attempts to influence the judge, which is a violation of federal law.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Floyd, there are 4 judges for each appellate jurisdiction and three judges are selected randomly to collectively hear each case.

      • David B. Cohen 2 years ago2 years ago

        Floyd, I agree with you that many California students are drastically underserved under the current system. We have huge class sizes, and a terrible lack of librarians, counselors, nurses. We have underinvested in our educational infrastructure, even basics like books and internet access. However, I don't see how the Vergara march towards right-to-work mediocrity helps students. Is there some magical place I don't know about where the ability to fire more teachers, or older ones, … Read More

        Floyd, I agree with you that many California students are drastically underserved under the current system. We have huge class sizes, and a terrible lack of librarians, counselors, nurses. We have underinvested in our educational infrastructure, even basics like books and internet access. However, I don’t see how the Vergara march towards right-to-work mediocrity helps students. Is there some magical place I don’t know about where the ability to fire more teachers, or older ones, has proven to be an effective school improvement strategy? Do you imagine that Mississippi and North Carolina and Texas have solved the teacher quality questions?

        The fixation on “bad teachers reflects” a lack serious kind of denial. We are unwilling in this country to face the facts – or the costs – regarding our need to complete a major overhaul of taxation and funding. I’m not interested in your rhetoric. Show me someplace that has improved its schools by moving in the directions you suggest.

        And Judge Treu should be criticized, not praised, for his findings. The only testimony that apparently mattered to him came from economists, and superintendents in the most stressed, underfunded districts. He ignored testimony from experts in education and in educational measurement (which is different from being an economist using educational measurement data). If you read the ruling, it doesn’t cite a single example of a plaintiff receiving an inadequate education, let alone anything that can be causally linked to the statutes. His analysis of the tenure situation is pathetically devoid of evidence from the trial or any other research. He speculates about what would happen if… and can’t back it up. Again, if you care to reply, spare me your thoughts and feelings on the issue if you can’t back them up with evidence. I already know the arguments.

        I live and teach in Palo Alto, and while our schools aren’t perfect, it’s pretty clear what advantages our students enjoy compared to their peers in Oakland or LAUSD. We spend more than double the money per student, pass bonds to build new facilities, and have enough parents volunteering to serve as the equivalent of many extra staff members helping teachers and staff in so many ways. The school conditions and work conditions give us our pick of teaching applicants, and teachers stay put. We also basically have a self-selecting student body coming from families with the means to provide millions of dollars worth of enrichment activities and learning. Don’t talk to me about “bad teachers” holding back kids in poverty. That’s not the problem. Of course every school should have the resources it needs to address teaching quality, and there are plenty of state and local unions that have negotiated improvements in this area. But it has to be negotiated, bargained, not just demanded and imposed.

        • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

          I have provided evidence but you ignore it. There is a study discussed in this month's Time that a bad teacher causes $250,000 worth of lifetime income loss to the collective class of students. I've had bad teachers for my kids, 1 who came in 50 of 180 days and every parent of 22, most very liberal, wanted to see fired but the union protected, one who would agree to a phone conference, … Read More

          I have provided evidence but you ignore it. There is a study discussed in this month’s Time that a bad teacher causes $250,000 worth of lifetime income loss to the collective class of students. I’ve had bad teachers for my kids, 1 who came in 50 of 180 days and every parent of 22, most very liberal, wanted to see fired but the union protected, one who would agree to a phone conference, agree to call, and then I had my phone forwarded to my cell and went to the school to see why she didn’t call or answer and she was laughing with friends, happened multiple times. Another who hasn’t shown up to Back To School night at Lowell 3 years in a row and has all bad reviews. Your side loves to deny the existence of bad teachers, and I’m well aware of that. I had one teacher for my daughter 4 years ago in 7th grade and when I complained, the counselor told me how odd it was, how surprising, she has a wonderful reputation. I later heard from over 10 other parents they had complained to the counselor, but the general strategy is hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Then you claim there’s never been any proof it’s an issue.

          Sure, income is an issue, parenting is a huge issue, and student work ethic is an issue. However, it’s no guarantee. Washington DC spends more per pupil than Palo Alto to dismal results, and there are some bad kids even in Palo Alto as Lowell (41% free or reduced lunch) beats Palo Alto and Gunn (under 5%) every year.

          Teaching isn’t everything, but to deny it is a factor is insane.

          And didn’t California come in 49th last year in the test scores? And I believe the only state it beat (DC was #51 with all that money, triple others) was a Western State, Idaho I believe. So yes, those states with far lower income and far lower Asian percentages, far less money, far less culture and a far less dynamic economy did beat California on test scores.

          Believe me, I know your type combs through the decision looking for flaws without honestly looking at the other side. You read it in a biased and intellectually dishonest manner. There was extensive talk about the kids being harmed by bad teachers and testimony to that effect. Everyone knows there are thousands of bad teachers who survive decades, anyone who’s been in the public schools. Every teacher knows this. I talk to teachers and they express dismay that other teachers have survived so long and say they’re terrible, but they don’t say this in public due to fear of the union’s power. Some are forced to donate but don’t agree with them on much.

          And what do you have to say about the report teachers miss more school than students, can call in sick with no explanation, and often do when not sick? Many just miss 11 days automatically, even though this hurts 22-35 kids each time. Shouldn’t those who don’t call in sick get preference during layoffs even with less seniority, and get a bonus? 12% called in sick the Tuesday before Thanksgiving! Is this OK to you?

          • David B. Cohen 2 years ago2 years ago

            Regarding the economic effects of bad teaching - that's the suggestion of one study, which some people find more valid and convincing than others, which may indicate causation, and which uses huge extrapolations to make $20/week sound life-changing. But in any case, I didn't suggest that I have any problem with efforts to improve teaching, improve evaluation, revise seniority provisions, or even streamline teacher dismissals. But I do oppose forcing that change through invalidation of … Read More

            Regarding the economic effects of bad teaching – that’s the suggestion of one study, which some people find more valid and convincing than others, which may indicate causation, and which uses huge extrapolations to make $20/week sound life-changing. But in any case, I didn’t suggest that I have any problem with efforts to improve teaching, improve evaluation, revise seniority provisions, or even streamline teacher dismissals. But I do oppose forcing that change through invalidation of existing law. What I said, and stand by, is that neither Treu, nor Students Matter, nor anyone else has convinced me that invalidating these ed. code statutes would produce better outcomes. Using various districts, states, and nations as test cases, it’s quite clear that the absence of a strong union or strong teacher protections will do nothing to improve teaching quality. In fact, it seems likely to be a setback to teaching quality overall.

            I’m sorry your kids had bad teachers, though – sincerely. I don’t mean to diminish the problems that exist, but rather to suggest a very different approach to solving them, something with a better chance of avoiding unintended negative consequences. I do believe unions need to do more about this issue, and with that in mind, I work with unions locally and across the state in ways that I hope will lead to changes in the roles and responsibilities of unions. However, for the moment, it’s up to administrators to document the problems. The union presidents I’ve talked to about this – maybe 15-20 of them – take no pleasure in defending teachers who are doing a poor job, and they recognize that doing so creates fodder for critiques such as yours. However, they cannot nod and wink at administrators and districts seeking to bypass the law and the contract. In functional and well-run schools and districts, they don’t have to – and that’s why there were administrators who were supportive of and testified for the defense in Vergara.

            And at the risk of belaboring the point regarding resources, I hardly think it’s appropriate to tell students and schools with massive, unconscionable shortages in resources that money is no guarantee of success, so their problems aren’t really a high priority. Imagine you’re stuck driving a dilapidated old jalopy that can barely handle freeway traffic or steep, curvy mountain roads. You ask for a new car, something with power steering, power brakes, fuel injection, and someone responds that having a better car won’t make you a better driver. Well, that’s true, there are some poor drivers of good cars, and some schools do better than others even if funding is adequate for both. But withholding resources and maintaining inequities because we can’t guarantee certain outcomes ahead of time is unethical.

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Thanks David, I understand your point better now. My kids have had mostly very good teachers, and even some they don't like I've thought are good. I just talk about these few because they were absolutely, unequivocally bad so they prove they exist. As far as resources, I would rather see fewer prisoners, far less expense on defense (offense? Is invading Iraq really defense?) and other things and somewhat higher taxes on … Read More

            Thanks David, I understand your point better now. My kids have had mostly very good teachers, and even some they don’t like I’ve thought are good. I just talk about these few because they were absolutely, unequivocally bad so they prove they exist. As far as resources, I would rather see fewer prisoners, far less expense on defense (offense? Is invading Iraq really defense?) and other things and somewhat higher taxes on rich people, some of whom hurt public schools by sending their kids to private or highly segregated public schools in exclusive suburbs.

            I just point out that it isn’t a guarantee. We need better parenting and we need teachers to advise parents. I’ve had teachers advise me to just have my kids do their homework and not worry if they get an A or a B. Teachers should have a motivational element and be realistic. Teachers should be the first ones advising all kids in a class to emulate the best student.

            One on one tutoring and counseling is needed. Many resources are needed. I just hope we don’t spend them in the wrong way so they become both expected and at the same time ineffective. I’m scared Pre-K for 4-year olds will go this route. It’s effective if you teach kids to read and do math and use flashcards, but a low end babysitter type teacher will make zero difference in kids’ future educational outcomes.

            Education should be our national priority. I’d cut all other budgets for it, prison, defense, legalize and tax marijuana and prostitution and have all the money go to schools, perhaps even lucrative parley sports betting. Schools need more money. But vast raises to teachers should be in return for making it easier to fire the few bad ones, which are probably about 5%, not 1-3. Even Lowell, one of the best high schools in the nation, better than privates, better than Palo Alto, has some terrible teachers, truly terrible. That shouldn’t be allowed. Lowell should be able to fire a teacher who is an embarrassment. One I know of has missed 3 consecutive back to school nights and been in school each day. She gets no fine, nothing, she gets away with it, but she should be ashamed of herself to do that to those children. She’s an awful teacher too and doesn’t want to hear it!

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            How is it possible for the best high school in the nation to have truly terrible teachers if teachers are so important? Would your desire to fire 30% of the teachers in that school make it even more successful?

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Navigio, nowhere near 30%. Maybe 10, maybe 5, probably somewhere in between. My daughter might say 15 but I'd say she's too harsh and I went there. But after the adjustment, yes. It would be a better school if they were allowed to fire certain teachers who are damaging the school's quality. Absolutely, every day of the week and twice on Sunday, all day long. As for how is it the … Read More

            Navigio, nowhere near 30%. Maybe 10, maybe 5, probably somewhere in between. My daughter might say 15 but I’d say she’s too harsh and I went there. But after the adjustment, yes. It would be a better school if they were allowed to fire certain teachers who are damaging the school’s quality. Absolutely, every day of the week and twice on Sunday, all day long.

            As for how is it the best, well it’s not the best. It’s the best in Northern California and on SAT Scores and APs beats or is statistically equal to all the privates, better than almost all, equal to a few, and the top public. It is #2 in California, and up to #28 nationwide or as low as 78. I think it’s really higher as those take away points for it being selective, Newsweek and US News. I think it’s top 10 in student quality, or at least top 20.

            Why is it good? The students are the best. You compete in Middle School to get in. They take the top 16%, or if there’s some inefficiency, 16 of the top 18-20%, of students in a large City with many very educated and artistic parents and many hard-driving immigrants, as well as some very wealthy parents. The students do it. I do not believe the average teacher at Lowell is better than the average teacher at Palo Alto High, Washington High, Lincoln in San Jose, to name a few. The average teacher is equal.

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          Mr.Cohen, even the head of the AFT, Randi Weingarten, disagrees with you. Union leaders understand that they have to negotiate on this issue to have any credibility as it becomes clear amongst the haze of educational upheaval that they can no longer reasonably protect ineffective teachers. You can argue that removing the worst teachers probably won't have too much effect on the system as a whole because only a few percentage points are … Read More

          Mr.Cohen, even the head of the AFT, Randi Weingarten, disagrees with you. Union leaders understand that they have to negotiate on this issue to have any credibility as it becomes clear amongst the haze of educational upheaval that they can no longer reasonably protect ineffective teachers. You can argue that removing the worst teachers probably won’t have too much effect on the system as a whole because only a few percentage points are truly “poor”, but you have to be seriously biased to conclude that a bad teacher will provide just as good an education as a good one. And this is essentially what your are saying in so many words. In the case of Vergara, Treu concluded that the concentration of bad teachers among certain schools has a disproportionate and deleterious effect on some students.

          You speak about Floyd’s rhetoric, but your line of reasoning has been stated ad nauseum in the left wing media, though the prevailing view across the political spectrum has been generally positive.As testament to the ruling, similar cases are popping up all over the country. For you to conclude efforts to introduce standards on teaching are misplaced, you are laying down Dumas’ gauntlet – “all for one and one for all”, effectively placing all teachers at risk for the incompetence of the few.

          FYI

          Leader of Teachers’ Union Urges Dismissal Overhaul
          By TRIP GABRIEL
          Published: February 24, 2011

          “Responding to criticism that tenure gives even poor teachers a job for life, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, announced a plan Thursday to overhaul how teachers are evaluated and dismissed.
          In her plan, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, addresses criticism of tenure.
          It would give tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory by their principals a maximum of one school year to improve. If they did not, they could be fired within 100 days.”

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            Actually, her proposal was not intended as a way to counter the practice of "protect[ing] ineffective teachers" since that is not what unions do, rather it was a way to force the issue with reformers, who have created a false dichotomy by implying that anyone is even currently willing to do real evaluations in the first place. In fact, in the interview gabriel was referring to, she was explicitly asked whether we'd still be having … Read More

            Actually, her proposal was not intended as a way to counter the practice of “protect[ing] ineffective teachers” since that is not what unions do, rather it was a way to force the issue with reformers, who have created a false dichotomy by implying that anyone is even currently willing to do real evaluations in the first place.
            In fact, in the interview gabriel was referring to, she was explicitly asked whether we’d still be having this discussion in 3 to 5 years. She conceded yes, because the critics are more about winning arguments than solving problems. It’s been 4 years.

            And in the same article, here was a response to her ‘proposal’:
            ‘“Her strategy of making sure all teachers who get a negative review will get a year and 100 days, it strikes me as a delaying tactic,” [Michael J. Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute] said.’

  3. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    "Torlakson’s victory guarantees that there will be continuity on the key reforms underway in California schools, most notably the Common Core State Standards, the new Smarter Balanced assessments to be administered to 3 million California children in the spring, and the dramatic revision of school funding, including targeting funds at low-income students, English learners and foster children." The word "continuity" is a strange way to describe the precipitous and questionable roll out of … Read More

    “Torlakson’s victory guarantees that there will be continuity on the key reforms underway in California schools, most notably the Common Core State Standards, the new Smarter Balanced assessments to be administered to 3 million California children in the spring, and the dramatic revision of school funding, including targeting funds at low-income students, English learners and foster children.”

    The word “continuity” is a strange way to describe the precipitous and questionable roll out of Common Core instruction and the arrival of Smarter Balanced assessments before CC implementation is verified. That the Governor, the legislature and the Superintendent are all on the same page and will plow ahead despite widespread lack of readiness across the state indicates that continuity is not allows a good thing if it doesn’t spring forth from a solid foundation.

  4. WeWillBeBack 2 years ago2 years ago

    The Federal government should look how API scores have been manipulated by classifying underserved minorities as “Students with Disabilities” in order to be exempted from standardized tests.

    The Federal Government should also start prosecuting boards who feel they can break the law to deny charters.

  5. Caroline Grannan 2 years ago2 years ago

    Polite correction: MAX Rafferty.

  6. Dawn Urbanek 2 years ago2 years ago

    What reforms? The Continuation of Prop 30 Taxes? Using Taxpayer money to appeal the Vergara ruling? The New Local Control Funding Formula Base Grant is set so low that any child (rich or poor, English language learner or native English Speaker) who happens to live in a wealthy suburban school district is being deprived of their constitutional right to an adequate education. That is not going to change with the re-election of Jerry Brown and … Read More

    What reforms? The Continuation of Prop 30 Taxes? Using Taxpayer money to appeal the Vergara ruling? The New Local Control Funding Formula Base Grant is set so low that any child (rich or poor, English language learner or native English Speaker) who happens to live in a wealthy suburban school district is being deprived of their constitutional right to an adequate education. That is not going to change with the re-election of Jerry Brown and Tom Torlakson. If taxpayers really understood what these two have done to our students they would be re-called, not re-elected.

    If you want the facts- The State of California is withholding $200 million per year from the Capistrano Unified School District alone and we had to use 3 furlough days and increase class sizes by 1.5 students across all grades to balance the Districts budget.

    Taxpayers were promised that if they voted to pass Prop 30, the revenue would go to students!

    THAT WAS A LIE!

    80% of Prop 30 Money is going to Public Employee Salaries and Benefits – not to Students as Promised!

    Source: http://trackprop30.ca.gov/K12State.aspx

    Although the State has record high revenues, Prop 30 money is not reaching the classrooms as promised. Despite the passage of Prop 30 and the implementation of California’s new education funding system, many school districts remain severely underfunded and continue to face deficits and budget cuts.

    Read More: The Continual Lack Of Adequate Funding Has Resulted In A Notable Decline In Student Performance Across All Demographics.

    See Documentation: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ja1N1ukm9xeX2PNfZyCS0hMpOSTnYAffRhIo6W4E-54/pub

    Replies

    • Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 years ago2 years ago

      Thank you, Dawn Urbanek, for an honest appraisal of what's going on in California public education under the boot heel of the California Teachers Association in league with politicians like Governor Brown and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. If there is a most-misused word in the English language, "reform" as applied to schools is it. And as for worst idea to date masquerading as "reform," it's a tossup between Common Core instruction in math … Read More

      Thank you, Dawn Urbanek, for an honest appraisal of what’s going on in California public education under the boot heel of the California Teachers Association in league with politicians like Governor Brown and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. If there is a most-misused word in the English language, “reform” as applied to schools is it.
      And as for worst idea to date masquerading as “reform,” it’s a tossup between Common Core instruction in math and language arts and the cynical “local control funding formula” which sends State bucks to unaccountable local school boards.

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      You are wrong in a variety of ways. Prop 30 never promised to bring CA's school funding to any particular level, it just promised to "stem the bleeding" from continued cuts. CA's school funding per child was near the bottom nationally before Prop 30 and remains near the bottom. The improvement in the economy could bring some further improvements too; however it is unlikely to bring the state out of the bottom five or ten states … Read More

      You are wrong in a variety of ways.

      Prop 30 never promised to bring CA’s school funding to any particular level, it just promised to “stem the bleeding” from continued cuts. CA’s school funding per child was near the bottom nationally before Prop 30 and remains near the bottom. The improvement in the economy could bring some further improvements too; however it is unlikely to bring the state out of the bottom five or ten states in the nation. To do that is going to require some substantial changes to CA tax revenue stream. First among those will changes to Prop 13, an oil severance tax, and the closing of many business tax loopholes that were introduced during economic surges in the 90s and then further ones forced on the system by the necessity to get a few Republicans to sign off on the budget. That problem, but not the problem of lack of tax revenue, was “solved” by Prop 25 a few years ago which reduced the approval vote for the budget to a simple and democratic majority vote. Thanks to teachers’ unions for that one.

      On Prop 30 money “not going to the classroom.” but to “public employee salaries and benefits” (!?) Were you expecting Prop 30 dollars to be delivered to students as a check? Prop 30 goes to improved student services which are only delivered by public employees, classified and certificated. Some can go to technology updates, text materials and so on. But fully 80% of education is about the people who do the educating and provide student support so, obviously, fully 80% (or more) of education dollars go to support those people. How else would you do it? Robots?

      i know of no large-scale case where students have been misclassified to avoid tesing except in Texas to support the phony “Texas Miracle” and used as support for NCLB.

      CA’s school fund per child first went below the national average in unweighted dollars in 1985 a few years after passage of Prop 13. CA, of course, has the second highest coast-of-living in the nation so dollars we spend here do not go as far as elsewhere. That means that in cost-of-living weighted dollars CA’s spending per child for education is near the bottom nationally. This results in the fewest classroom teachers per student and highest class sizes in the US. CA also has the fewest counselors, nurses, and librarians per child and the fewest school administrators. To correct these disparities in educational opportunity will require more teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians, and administrators as well as other school support personnel. This means even more dollars spent on “public employees.” This will all require enhanced revenues for the state. If you are interested in lowering class size and generally improving school services for the state’s children reach out to your local teachers’ union and ask how you can help. (BTW teachers’ salaries in CA, again weighted for cost-of-living, are below the national average according to RAND.)

    • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

      Dawn, apparently, has trouble reading a graph. The 80% she references comes from the TOTAL state education expenditures--not where the Prop 30 money goes. Districts decide where the money goes. It may go to staffing, it may go to benefits, it may go to wherever the district feels that it is deficient. My guess is that most of it went to staffing to stop layoffs and to decrease class size (from 38/36 to 34/32, for … Read More

      Dawn, apparently, has trouble reading a graph. The 80% she references comes from the TOTAL state education expenditures–not where the Prop 30 money goes. Districts decide where the money goes. It may go to staffing, it may go to benefits, it may go to wherever the district feels that it is deficient. My guess is that most of it went to staffing to stop layoffs and to decrease class size (from 38/36 to 34/32, for instance, and that means hiring another teacher). Instead of increasing student to teacher ratios and laying off teachers, they are using Prop 30 money to cushion in this way.

      BEFORE Prop 30 and AFTER Prop 30, 80% of the education expenditures went to teacher/staff and benefits. The biggest chunk for education spending (55% to 65%) is and will always be to teachers in every state–even in states with low teacher salaries.

  7. navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

    Schools can still work well with conflict at the top because they have teachers in them. When things don’t work well it’s usually a result of invasive or disruptive or even bad policy that injection itself into the classroom environment. That can even happen with unity at the top.