Monday, March 19, 2007

Stanford Report #2 - From Local to State Control of Education

Financing K-12 Education in California: A System Overview, Timar, Thomas (2007), University of California. Davis.
[a few quotations from the second paper of the $3 million report from Stanford. I described this situation in my dissertation in 2002, for free!!]

From the Stanford University study
"Since the early 1970s, traditional patterns of school governance in California have changed dramatically. The presumption of local control, a system of governance based on local electoral accountability—the system in place for the previous 150 years—has been superseded by a system of state control. Decisions that used to be matters of local discretion‐‐‐among them, decisions about resource allocation, curriculum, student assessment, and student promotion and graduation—are now matters of state policy.

Districts are now subject to voluminous state and federal regulations and reporting requirements. The state tells teachers how to teach reading and tells teachers and administrators how to behave with parents. Since enactment of the Public School Accountability Act (PSAA) in 1999, the state can take over “failing” schools and fire teachers and principals. As a result of governance changes over the past 35 years, there are few areas of teaching and learning that are not subject to legislative mandate. "

…“so what”
question. What difference does it make where the money comes from?....."

[they answer this question in the third section of the report, and the answer is not very clear or coherent. On the one hand, they argue that state tak over of control of funding has equalized funding in districts, but only the base level funding. A number of districts have gone bankrupt as a result and had to be taken over by the state. Why? Because the state has no mechanism to make sure that districts spend the money effectively?????? This is a crazy argument that the authors make given that the real problem is NOT ENOUGH MONEY!!!. The state tells the districts what they can and cannot spend the money on, then the authors of this report blame the district for not spending the money effectively?! So the Stanford people are saying that the problem is too much bureaucracy, but they suggest adding another layer??? The solution is for the state to continue creating the framework for finance and policy—which really means that the CBEE will create it – a fact that the Stanford study ignores. This is the real problem with academics – they think that if they are clear and rational – which they are not always anyway – that the powers that be will listen and accept their recommendations. The reality is about power – who has it (CBEE) and who does not (teachers, parents and students, and local school boards) ]
"While the state allocates about $14 billion annually to categorically funded program, those programs are rarely, if ever, evaluated for their effectiveness or audited for compliance. Schools are generally limited to providing only those services that the state funds. There is little discretionary money available to districts that want to start a new programs, they must go to the state to get special purpose funding to pay for them, as few districts have any discretionary money for new programs or services.

The current system of school finance is one that has been cobbled together in response to various pressures over the past thirty‐some years. What is missing from the resulting patchwork of policies is an underlying framework or set of principles to guide the system. As a result, the system has little coherence or clarity. For instance, the policy goal of inter‐district equalization is achieved through revenue limits, but undone by categorical programs.

[in conclusion] A healthy partnership between the state and local education agencies is essential condition of a robust, effective system of education. As a partnership, it argues for the need to develop a framework for school finance. There should be a set of principles that define state and local roles and responsibilities for revenues, program control, and accountability. A coherent framework and set of principles are clearly missing from the current system which has been built opportunistically in response to specific needs and problems. It is doubtful that anything short of a comprehensive overhaul of the system is likely to lead to its improvement." [so the problem is an inability of local districts to tailor educational policy and programs to the unique needs of their district. and the solution, then, is to continue to direct educational policy and programs from the state level????]

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