Photo: Alison Yin/EdSource

You can wager on anything in Las Vegas. Well, almost. I have yet to see the over/under on whether the State Board of Education will pass the next LCAP revision. That’s why I created my own currency, the Fenster — redeemable in EdSource swag if we open an online store. For now, Fensters are only worth bragging rights on my annual predictions column.

A year ago, I invited you to fill out your own bet sheet. It’s time to bring it out of the safe deposit box and look to the end of the column for how you did.

Meanwhile, let’s get to work on 2020. The prediction scale ranges from 1 to 5 “Fensters,” with 1 meaning no chance and 5 meaning highly likely.


Gov. Gavin Newsom is feeling the big squeeze. Grassroots community groups, unions like the California Teachers Association, and city and school officials are pressing him to back their initiative, Schools and Communities First, which likely will qualify for the November ballot. The “split-roll” initiative would amend Proposition 13’s property tax restrictions to increase taxes on commercial and business properties but not on homeowners. About 40 percent of the $12 billion it would generate would go to K-12 and community colleges.

Newsom has acknowledged that K-12 and early ed need more money. He’s for overall tax reform, too. But he’s been silent about this initiative, which is polling with under 50 percent support among California voters.

Some possibilities.

The dodge: He’ll avoid making a decision.

Likelihood that Newsom will put index fingers to ears and say “Next question” when asked about it:

The compromise: Some education advocates are calling on Newsom to cut a deal with the Legislature and Prop. 13 reformers to put a different tax plan on the ballot. It will take arduous work to get an agreement.

Likelihood that Newsom will try — and succeed — in putting an alternative tax on the ballot: 

The delay: The California School Boards Association is vowing to put an income tax increase on the 2022 ballot. Newsom could say he’ll build a consensus for tax reform then, coinciding with his re-election campaign, assuming he chooses to run again.

Likelihood he’ll say 2022 will be the year for a new tax:

A reluctant yes:  This is not mutually exclusive to “the delay.” And he won’t be blamed if  the split-roll initiative loses.

Likelihood Newsom will support the “split roll” but not campaign for it:

School construction bond

There is a tax increase that Newsom is behind, a $15 billion school construction bond to benefit K-12, community colleges, California State University and University of California on the March 3 ballot. Newsom negotiated the terms, which will target more state aid to rural and low-wealth districts, and it will appear as Prop. 13 by quirk of circumstance. Though also flagging in the latest poll, prospects will brighten with the support of Newsom and key business groups.

Likelihood that the construction bond will pass: 

State budget

With worries about a recession this year dimming, Newsom should have several billion more in Proposition 98 funding for K-12 and community colleges. Last year, he committed nearly all ongoing increases to the Local Control Funding Formula. He then used one-time General Fund spending to provide billions in short-term pension cost relief and invest in early education. Education advocates applauded.

Likelihood that Newsom will reprise last year’s hits, with at least an additional billion in short-term pension help and tens of millions in increases for child-care and preschool funding: 

Likelihood that Newsom will provide hundreds of millions of additional money for special education: 

Likelihood that Newsom will funnel significant money to improve the teaching of math and science. This is more of a hope than a prediction, but continuing stagnant test scores and vast achievement gaps, despite the promise of new math standards, demand state attention. I don’t know the form it will take — and Newsom won’t call it categorical funding — but it will (or should) happen in the May revision:

Teacher strikes

Last year, there were high-profile strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland, with a wildcat strike in Sacramento. No big-district walkouts are on the horizon, but tensions are high in many of the state’s nearly 1,000 school districts. Striking teachers will reinforce the CTA’s call for more education funding.

Likelihood of five or more teacher strikes this year:

Reforming the reform

In an audit last fall, State Auditor Elaine Howle criticized school districts for either not clearly accounting for or misusing state funding targeted for low-income, foster and English learner students. She called for significantly tighter rules for spending and transparency under the Local Control Funding Formula.

Likelihood that Newsom will negotiate a bill to make it significantly easier to track and compare districts’ “supplemental and concentration” spending for high-needs students: 

Charter wars

In 2019, Newsom negotiated a rewrite of the charter school law that will give school districts more power to reject charter schools without eviscerating the sector, as charter school backers feared. The compromise quieted the charter war in Sacramento, but like the celebrated but short-lived Christmas Truce of 1914, it will ferociously resume on the local front, in battles over the election of school boards and county board of education trustees. As usual, all eyes will be on Los Angeles Unified.

Likelihood that teachers unions and charter school donors will spend record amounts on school board elections in 2020: 

 UCs on the SAT

Within the next few months, a faculty committee will recommend whether the University of California should stop requiring applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Opponents of the college admissions tests, like UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, argue they compound the difficulties that low-income, African-American and Hispanic applicants face in getting into UC.

Likelihood that UC will drop the requirement and study whether the state’s Smarter Balanced tests can be used as an admissions factor instead: 

CSU on math

Early this year, the California State University trustees will decide whether to require applicants to have taken an additional, fourth year of math or a course using quantitative skills, like a lab or computer science. Strong opposition remains, despite plan revisions that would push back the implementation date, exempt high schools that don’t offer enough courses and permit less rigorous courses like personal finance.

Likelihood that CSU will adopt the proposal: 

The Year of Special Education

Task forces and studies for years have called for reforming California’s complicated system of serving students with disabilities. Newsom took initial steps last year, funding preschool special ed and college grants for special ed teachers. This year, he’ll announce a multi-year effort to fully remake the system.

Likelihood that special education will be Newsom’s top K-12 priority this year:

Bonus question

Who will win California’s presidential primary March 3? It could easily be Pete Sanders, Joe Yang or Elizabeth Klobuchar. In other words, I have no idea. Nonetheless, likelihood that Biden will edge out Warren:

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  1. Paul Muench 3 years ago3 years ago

    Congratulations on your 2019 predictions. But everyone has to have a weak point, so here’s to hoping you repeat on the SAT/ACT issues 🙂