States

California Governor Scales Back Schools Agenda

By Linda Jacobson — January 10, 2008 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

Although this was supposed to be the “year of education” in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presented a much less ambitious agenda for public schools during his 2008 State of the State address last week than he had been vowing to pursue last year.

With the state facing a $14 billion budget deficit in fiscal 2009, the second-term Republican instead introduced a new slogan, calling 2008 “not the year to talk about money.”

Recounting the state’s response to residents affected by last year’s Southern California wildfires and the rapid rebuilding of a section of a San Francisco Bay Area freeway after a truck crash, the governor emphasized accomplishments over the past year.

“Government can work, it can be efficient, it can lead,” he said.

But no mention was made of “Getting Down to Facts,” the massive research report released in 2007 that called for a major overhaul of the state’s education finance and governance systems. (“California’s Schooling Is ‘Broken,’” Mar. 21, 2007.)

Neither did Gov. Schwarzenegger make any statements about the recently completed recommendations of his own Committee on Education Excellence on how to address the issues raised in the report.

That committee’s report recommends a range of changes, including performance pay for teachers, new models for certifying teachers, an expansion of full-day kindergarten, reducing regulations, and creating a commission in charge of deciding on the best use of the information collected on students and teachers.

The governor “absolutely let the opportunity drop,” said David N. Plank, the executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education, a think tank based at the University of California, Berkeley. “This was the moment that the state was expecting him to set a course for the year.”

Others urged Mr. Schwarzenegger not to back off from his earlier commitment to focus on education reform this year.

“Rather than avoiding talking about money, this year’s bleak fiscal outlook provides an excellent opportunity to take a long-term view,” said a statement from Parents and Students for Great Schools, a coalition of advocacy groups representing many low-income families in the state.

See Also

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

Using a familiar refrain, the governor said the state has a “spending problem” dictated by automatic budget formulas that trigger increases in spending even when revenues are less than expected. He said that, in November, he would once again push for a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature and the governor flexibility over spending decisions when revenues are flat. His proposed Budget Stabilization Act, he said, would set aside money in surplus years to help in lean times.

“We now have no way out but to face our budget demons,” he said. The governor presented his fiscal 2009 budget Jan. 10; the state’s fiscal 2008 budget was $145 billion.

Schools in Crisis

Almost the only education proposal Mr. Schwarzenegger addressed during his Jan. 8 speech was his plan to intervene in the 98 school districts that face sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act because they haven’t met achievement targets for multiple years.

“No more waiting,” he said. “We must act on behalf of the children.”

Districts will fall under different assistance plans that best fit their needs—from making modifications to local education plans intended to help them meet NCLB, to the more drastic steps of replacing personnel, revising curricula, or restructuring the districts.

Additional materials from the governor’s office show that he is proposing a plan that would respond to one of the issues raised in “Getting Down to Facts”—what the report termed the state’s “compliance-driven” education bureaucracy. Under his plan, high-performing schools and districts would be allowed to request waivers from some provisions in the state education code as long as they continued to meet expectations.

The governor also plans to take some action on one of the critical areas raised in “Getting Down to Facts”: the need for a more coherent data system to allow for more-informed decisions about student achievement.

He is proposing both to pay for and link the state’s teacher and student databanks, which Trish Williams, the executive director of EdSource, a Mountain View, Calif.-based research group, called his “single most important recommendation.”

Following one of the recommendations from the Committee on Education Excellence, the governor will also create a nine-member Education Data Commission to make policy recommendations on the use of education data.

In the area of teaching, Gov. Schwarzenegger is proposing to let other public and private entities enter the teacher-preparation market and create “new routes to a teaching credential” separate from the state’s university systems.

“We’ve got to create 100,000 more teachers in the next 10 years,” he said.

Even though the governor said he would be presenting a budget that is “difficult,” some observers are doing their best to focus on the positive elements.

“California’s newest fiscal crisis has hit the state’s public school advocates hard, but they’re not turning in the towel,” Ms. Williams said. “The information a comprehensive education data system can provide will enable California to evaluate the effectiveness of everything else we are doing to improve school performance and student achievement.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, who will present his own State of Education address later this month, said in a statement that he was pleased with the governor’s recommendations regarding data, and that he welcomes his proposals for increasing the supply of teachers.

A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 2008 edition of Education Week as California Governor Scales Back Schools Agenda

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States How States Are Testing the Church-State Divide in Public Schools
A new order to teach the Bible in Oklahoma is the latest action to fuel debate over the presence of religion in schools.
7 min read
Image of a bible sitting on top of a school backpack.
Canva
States Lawsuit Challenges Louisiana's New Ten Commandments Law
Opponents argue that the law is a violation of separation of church and state and will isolate students.
3 min read
A copy of the Ten Commandments is posted along with other historical documents in a hallway of the Georgia Capitol, Thursday, June 20, 2024, in Atlanta. Civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit Monday, June 24, challenging Louisiana’s new law that requires the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom.
A copy of the Ten Commandments is posted along with other historical documents in a hallway of the Georgia Capitol, Thursday, June 20, 2024, in Atlanta. Civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit Monday, June 24, challenging Louisiana’s new law that requires the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom.
John Bazemore/AP
States The Surprising Contenders for State Superintendent Offices This Year
Two elections for the top education leadership job feature candidates who have never worked in public schools.
8 min read
North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler announces the gathering of a task force to look into future options the state has for the assessment of students during a press conference May 8, 2015, at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D.
North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler announces the gathering of a task force to look into future options for student assessment during a press conference May 8, 2015, in Bismarck, N.D. Baesler, the nation's longest-serving state schools chief, is running for a fourth term, facing opponents with no experience serving in public schools.
Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP
States Does a Ten Commandments Display in Classrooms Violate the Constitution?
Louisiana is poised to become the first state to require all schools to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms.
7 min read
Human hand holding a magnifying glass over open holy bible book of Exodus verses for Ten Commandments, top view
Marinela Malcheva/iStock/Getty