Stronger teaching and leadership, a useful and reliable data system, expanded high-quality early-childhood-education programs, and more flexibility for educators to improve student achievement are among the recommendations a California committee is making for repairing what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called a “broken” public education system.
But in accepting the recommendations March 14, the governor said it was unfortunate that the 18-member group’s plan was being released in the midst of a “financial disaster” when midyear budget cuts have already occurred, and the state faces a $16 billion deficit in fiscal 2009.
Ted Mitchell, the chairman of the committee, however, said some changes can be made right away, while other recommendations are meant to point the state in a direction of improvement for the next decade.
“We mustn’t postpone education reform until the situation improves,” said Mr. Mitchell, who also serves on the state’s appointed board of education. And when California’s fiscal picture does brighten, resources shouldn’t be channeled “into the same old system,” he said.
Gov. Schwarzenegger used the formal announcement of the report, which has already been a topic of conversation and hearings around the state for a few months, to push once again for his plan to establish a rainy-day fund that would help the state withstand downturns in the economy.
“For healthy schools, you need a healthy budget,” he said.
The Republican governor’s Committee on Education Excellence, financed by several foundations, was created three years ago to address such areas as finance, school governance, and teaching. Along with several other groups, it requested a major series of research reports, called “Getting Down to Facts,” released a year ago. (“California’s Schooling Is ‘Broken,’” March 21, 2007.)
Not surprisingly, the committee’s report echoes many of the issues already highlighted in that document. Among them are that the state’s education system, with its piles of categorical funding programs, is confusing, and that it is “compliance-driven,” Mr. Mitchell said, instead of focused on results.
The committee report also agrees that while massive amounts of data are collected, they are not organized well enough to be used for making improvements.
“Our system actually impedes educators’ best work,” he said.
A version of this article appeared in the March 26, 2008 edition of Education Week