State Journal

A Kinder, Gentler Schwarzenegger?

Governor vows to listen in crafting school plans.

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Is a bipartisan wind blowing in the debate over California’s “broken” school finance and governance systems?

Reiterating his plans to make 2008 the “year of education” in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he intends to seek input from both Democrats and his fellow Republicans on how to repair the way the state pays for and governs its schools.

“I will get everyone together—from the ACLU all the way on the left to the Hoover Institution all the way on the right,” he said May 4 to the members of the Education Writers Association, gathered in Los Angeles for their annual meeting.

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s comments came less than two months after he declared that recent studies calling for an education overhaul illustrate “how broken the system is.” ("California’s Schooling Is ‘Broken’," March 21, 2007.)

But he was emphatic in telling the education reporters that he would not tinker with Proposition 13, a 1978 tax-limitation measure that significantly reduced the amount of property-tax revenue available for school districts.

The governor has taken a bipartisan approach to a health-care proposal that he is pushing. He said that when he presents his vision for education reform in his State of the State address next January, he doesn’t want “to be shot down.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger said his past efforts at trying the confrontational approach weren’t successful.

Two years ago, he took on the state teachers’ union through a series of ballot initiatives that, among other provisions, would have increased the time it takes for a teacher to earn tenure and given state leaders more flexibility in applying the education funding formula. The California Teachers Association fought back and defeated the measures. ("Foes Seek Cooperation After Calif. Showdown," Nov. 16, 2005.)

The package of research studies released in March concluded that even more money won’t improve student achievement in California if policymakers don’t first address a complicated system that includes multiple streams of targeted funding, along with burdensome regulations for local schools.

“We don’t even know who is in charge of education in this state,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, listing the legislature, the state schools superintendent, local superintendents, and other positions. “It is a dysfunctional system.”

If the system is not fixed, he said, the legislature could increase funding and the money “would never get to the classroom.”

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See other stories on education issues in California. See data on California's public school system.

Vol. 26, Issue 37, Page 18

Published in Print: May 16, 2007, as A Kinder, Gentler Schwarzenegger?

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