New Report on California Education System Offers Downbeat Findings in Four Areas

Charter schoolIn 2007, researchers associated with Stanford University released “Getting Down to Facts” – a massive compilation of studies of the California K-12 public school system. The hundreds of pages of voluminous research allowed both the state education establishment and its critics to pick and choose what conclusions to emphasize.

Democrats and teachers unions cited the omnibus report’s call for much greater school spending. Reformers noted it said extra funding should be contingent on adoption of evidence-driven reforms.

Now “Getting Down to Facts II,” again led by Stanford-associated researchers, has been released – to much the same reaction. Education leaders cite its call for a huge 32 percent increase in school spending. Reformers note that once again, experts say California hasn’t done nearly enough to use education “best practices” to improve the performance of poor Latino and African-American students and schools in general.

But those who delve past general statements that praise the “boldness” of the California Dashboard school evaluation program and the success of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in getting more funds to needy poor schools will find a series of downbeat assessments.

Lack of ‘coherence’ found in implementing key reform

Four major examples:

– A series of research briefs about school governance broadly questions key LCFF elements, citing a lack of “coherence” in how the state expects individual districts to come up with their own unique “Local Control Accountability Plans” to improve their schools. This echoes criticism in a 2017 study that found local districts lacked the resources, expertise and enthusiasm to comply with this requirement. The briefs also said the state does not have adequate “mechanisms for accountability” in evaluating how local districts have used LCFF funds meant to help disadvantaged students.

– One study faulted the state for committing to help struggling schools in minority neighborhoods by increasing funding, but not addressing the frequency with which these schools were staffed with “early career” teachers – i.e., those who were just entering the job market or who had failed to win tenure in other districts. This also parallels one of the most common long-term criticisms of California public education: that too few of the most skilled, experienced teachers ended up in the districts that needed them most.

– One brief expressed borderline astonishment that California did not use data on student and teacher performance that would allow principals, superintendents, school boards and state education officials to develop a statistical model of what school practices worked best. These “weaknesses could be readily solved,” authors noted. In a seeming reference to political battles over data-driven reform, the report’s executive summary notes that “the limitations of California’s data system are not the result of technological difficulties.”

– An analysis of school finances cited the punishing effect of the 2014 bailout of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System on school budgets, which on a phased-in basis requires that districts increase by 123 percent how much they contribute to CalSTRS per teacher in a six-year span from the 2014-15 to 2020-21 school years. But while this was familiar turf, other parts of the fiscal analysis were not. The analysis warned of the ballooning costs of special education programs and the certainty that eventually districts will have to somehow find a way to pay for billions of dollars in neglected infrastructure and maintenance.

As CalWatchdog reported in 2015, school districts were already so stressed by money headaches that they were using the proceeds from 30-year bonds for needs normally covered by district operating budgets, such as computers and teaching materials. And that came in only the first year of rising pension bills because of the Legislature’s 2014 move to shore up CalSTRS.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California school spending grows at fastest pace in the U.S.

School union protestFew monetary issues draw more emotion or scrutiny than the ups and downs of government’s educational expenses.

This year, the heated “invest in our kids” debate has rattled state capitols across the nation as teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona walked out of classrooms and headed to picket lines and rallies to protest low wages.

All this labor turmoil comes as California schools have been enjoying nation-leading increases in “elementary/secondary” educational spending, according to new Census Bureau data.

This report by a relatively independent arbiter — covering up to 2016 spending patterns nationwide — gives a glimpse into how California public school budgets compare with nationwide trends. It tallies taxpayer funds going to everything from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and includes charter schools if they’re school-district-funded. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

New bill would require fire inspections at home schools

The case of the Riverside County couple accused of torturing their 13 children has sparked legislation to increase oversight of home schools.

Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside) has proposed a bill that would require local fire departments to conduct annual inspections of all registered home schools.

Medina said in a statement that his measure would “provide the oversight needed to protect students and their rights.”

The Home School Association of California opposes the bill.

Debbie Schwarzer, an attorney with the organization, says the bill constitutes an invasion of privacy. She also says it doesn’t provide any guidance for what home inspections would cover. …

Click here to read the full article from KPCC

Judge’s order could expose 10M California schoolkids’ personal info

As reported by Fox News:

A federal judge’s order earlier this month that California public schools turn a trove of personal information on millions of children over to two nonprofits has parents worried and privacy rights advocates outraged.

The nonprofits, who advocate for special needs kids, say they need the info to gauge compliance with federal law, but critics don’t believe Social Security numbers, home addresses and other sensitive records should be included. The ruling by Judge Kimberly Mueller of the Eastern District of California, applies to all students enrolled in Golden State public schools at any time since 2008, a number estimated at 10 million.

“People are confused, worried and angry,” said Bill Ainsworth, a spokesman for the California Department of Education.

The order from Mueller, who sits in Sacramento, stems from a 2012 lawsuit filed by …

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