Education Funding

UPDATED: California Governor, Schools Chief Square Off Over Data System

By Sean Cavanagh — October 18, 2010 2 min read
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California finally has a state budget, even if many observers say the $87.5 billion spending plan will do little to solve the state’s enduring financial woes. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has since weighed in with a series of line-item vetoes, and one of them in particular—to the state’s problem-plagued school data system—has drawn the wrath of state schools superintendent Jack O’Connell.

O’Connell called the veto “shortsighted, ill-informed, and hypocrticial,” and says it will hinder the implementation of California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, known as CALPADS.

The schools chief says the veto would cut $6.8 million from CALPADS, which is designed to allow for an examination of student test scores, demographic data, teacher assignment by course and individual students’ course enrollment and completion. School districts across the state have found that the system, which was built by IBM, has made it difficult for them to enter student data. Earlier this year, O’Connell ordered a top-to-bottom review of the system and put a stop to any changes to it until it was complete.

Despite those woes, O’Connell says that the system is improving and is now successfully collecting reams of valuable information. More than 90 percent of the state’s districts and charter schools have successfully submitted data through CALPADS, he said. In one more year, California will be able to provide a four-year graduation rate based on student-level data—quite an accomplishment, O’Connell argues.

“Rather than maintaining California’s course toward meeting its education data goals of helping all students reach their full potential,” O’Connell said in a statement, “the governor’s veto of CALPADS funding just send California racing to the bottom of the heap.”

But Schwarzenegger isn’t buying it. In a statement explaining his veto, he said that the lack of a working data system hurt California’s Race to the Top application. And other states, such as Virginia and Texas, have put together data systems without the headaches the Golden State has incurred, he argued.

"[E]nough is enough,” the governor said. “I am concerned that the resources allocated for this purpose lack necessary accountability to ensure that the citizens of California receive a high-qulaity longitudinal educational data system.”

Schwarzenegger, who will leave office following this fall’s election, said he will request that state lawmakers place “an appropriate entity” in charge of managing the data system in the future. So it’s likely that whoever succeeds him—Republican Meg Whitman or Democrat Jerry Brown—will face questions about the state’s ability to collect and manage student data, going forward.

[UPDATE: (5:01): O’Connell held a conference call this afternoon, in which he and his staff described what they say will be the impact of the cuts. Keric Ashley, the director of the California Department of Education’s management division, said the cuts would affect the help provided to school districts who submit data through the system. Earlier in the day, the state held a conference call with representatives of 360 districts from around the state, to try explain how the cuts might affect them.

The state receives “70 calls a day” for help with data, Ashley said.

Ashley also said that the cuts to the data system could jeopardize the state’s ability to meet No Child Left Behind Act requirements for reporting graduation rates. Grad data is also required as part of reporting for the federal State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, under the economic stimulus program, he noted.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.