Fully fund schools and improve public education for every student.
Despite the fact that California has recently made desperately needed and promising improvements to our education systems – it’s still a sad fact that when it comes to per-pupil spending, our state still ranks among the lowest in the nation when it comes to various metrics on education funding and outcomes. That’s why I firmly believe we must fully fund our neighborhood schools by identifying the means and allocating the resources to invest significantly more in our kids and their education. Such a commitment would allow for shrinking class sizes, hiring more teachers, broadening and expand early education and after-school and extracurricular programs, with an increased emphasis on Arts and music, thereby enriching our students’ academic experience and ensuring they receive a well-rounded education that allows them to compete and thrive in a rapidly changing world.
A little bit of history: the passage in 1978 of Proposition 13, and the restrictions it imposed on local jurisdictions’ power to raise property taxes, had the net effect of radically handicapping school districts’ ability to cover costs. When Californians voted in 1998 to approve Proposition 98, it was supposed to address this new fiscal reality and provide support to California’s school children by ensuring a minimum level of funding that would lead to improvements in class size, curricula and the quality of K-12 education overall. The results, since then, have been something well below what had initially been hoped.
There’s a strong case to be made, moreover, that Prop. 98, through the complex set of rules and tests it created to govern the state’s minimum educational guarantee, has actually had the unintended effect of making it more challenging, not less, to achieve meaningful improvements in the quality of public education in California. This is, in fact, one of the unfortunate hallmarks of California’s legislative and fiscal structure, the tendency toward rigid, formulaic policies to solve a particular problem, but which, as they pile up and overlap over time, have given policymakers ever less room to maneuver. There’s an old saying, in the public policy world, that budgets are an expression of values. In the two decades following the passage of Prop. 98, when faced with other, difficult choices associated with the growth and management of the largest state in the country, California lawmakers simply have not made spending on education a real priority. This posture of neglect was further compounded by the need for draconian cuts to all facets of government in the wake of the 2008 recession, to include education.
Thankfully, as the economy has improved over the past decade, and along with it the state’s fiscal condition, the amount of funding available for education has correspondingly improved. The passage of Proposition 30 in 2012 and then of its successor measure Proposition 55, in 2016, provided an additional boost to education funding. Even so, by most metrics, California’s public education system still ranks near the bottom on national assessments. It’s worth noting as well that the passage of Props 30 and 55 were made necessary by the Legislature’s unwillingness to otherwise find the funds for education that these ballot measures generated.
In any discussion as to how to improve education in California, the question as to the role and contributions of teachers always arises. As you’ll note on other parts of this website, I’m proud to have the support of a variety of educator organizations. My very strong perspective is that teaching is an honorable, even noble profession, and that we should not only invest in students but the professional educators who will shape their futures. Further, as part of the search for how best to improve education in California while adapting to a rapidly changing future characterized by digitalization and globalization, teachers and their organizational leadership present the best potential partners for finding solutions and developing new models for education.
As your state senator, I’m committed to doing everything to work with all parties to improve both the funding and quality of education in California. California’s children deserve nothing less, both as a matter of our moral obligation to them, but as an investment in California’s future, one in which we all have a shared stake in the quality of our workforce and the participation of our citizenry.
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