Calif. Reforms Endangered, Report Finds
California's school-improvement efforts could be "seriously endangered" by a combination of higher than expected enrollment increases and inflexible state and local spending limits, according to a new report.
The student population in the state is increasing at a rate 42 percent higher than earlier forecasts, with an average of 142,000 new students expected to enroll in each of the next 10 years, the report says.
"Another way to look at it is that eight states have total school enrollments smaller than California's projected annual growth," said Michael W. Kirst, an education professor at Stanford University and co-director of Policy Analysis for California Education, which released the report last week. Pace is a cooperative education-policy center based at Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Southern California.
Enormous Budget Needs Seen
Simply to keep pace with the enrollment increases and inflation, the state will need to increase its spending on education by $20.6 billion--or 98 percent of current school budgets--by 1997, the report says.
At the same time, the state's unique combination of taxing and spending limits has erected "resource restraints which do not easily accommodate to the dual challenges of unanticipated enrollment growth and a desire for educational excellence," the report states.
The political infighting among both state leaders and the major education associations that characterized much of 1987 served to "inject added uncertainty and instability into the operation of local districts and schools," the report adds.
"If the state is unable to overcome these complicated structural conditions which restrain resources and inhibit consensus, the progress of the current reform movement is seriously endangered," the report's authors conclude.
The report cites several improvements that resulted from the state's 1983 reform package in areas such as textbooks, enrollments in rigorous courses, and minority student achievement. In addition, the scores of 12th-grade students on the 1987 California Assessment Program tests achieved the largest one-year gain on record.
But the 1987 cap scores of elementary students showed only a marginal increase following a decade of consistent improvements and, over all, the reports authors say, "the recently initiated education-reform effort is showing distinct signs of slowing."
The report, "Conditions of Education in California," also examines, among other topics, the characteristics of the state's teachers and administrators, the governance structure at each level of education, and curriculum and special program issues.
Copies will be available in about two weeks. For information on pricing or ordering, write pace, School of Education, University of California, Berkeley, Calif. 94720, or call (415) 642-7223.--ws