The fifth anniversary of the massive Stanford-led studies of California public schools is upon us, and once again, the special interests are characterizing the report as focusing on a lack of resources. Unlike the reporters who are now writing about “Getting Down to Facts,” I actually read about a thousand pages of the reports. And as I wrote back in 2007, buried in all the multiple studies, here is the lead: A review of all California school districts shows “essentially no relationship between spending and student outcomes” and that spending more is futile until “extensive and systemic reforms” are in place. In other words, the problem is much more about the stupid way money is spent than the lack of money.
Some 225 years ago, when empress Catherine the Great visited the Crimea region, legend has it that a Russian public official named Potemkin ordered construction of “villages” that looked great from afar but were actually just facades. Think the fake small town the good guys built in “Blazing Saddles.” Now many California school districts are beginning their Potemkin village-ization. To cover compensation costs that top 90 percent or more of operating budgets, everything must go until there are just facades of schools left. Everything must go, that is, but pay and pensions for veteran and retired teachers.
After Jerry Brown mocked Senate President Darrell Steinberg last fall for pushing the latest “siren song of school reform,” the gov went on to tout local control as a better way than the current emphasis on student testing and teacher accountability. Here and elsewhere, I’ve pointed out the obvious — in effect, if not in words, what Brown wants is tantamount to a return to the old days of how public education operated. Yo, Jerry: K-12 schools way back when were so dysfunctional that it triggered the broad education reform movement that you now consider a trendy failure, including the misfire that is No Child Left Behind. I’ve been waiting …. and waiting … and waiting … for someone else in the media to figure this out. Now someone has, and lordy lordy, it’s former Sac Bee editorial page editor Peter Schrag, one of the most respected establishment voices on education.
The very element that gives Jerry Brown the best chance to sell his tax hike plan — if it doesn’t go through, K-12 students will take a brutal beating — should terrify state educators. Kids are being used as political props in a down-and-dirty effort to raise taxes by any means necessary — but with an electorate that’s usually hostile to tax hikes. Should the education establishment want students to be the human sacrifices if voters don’t buy Jerry’s plan? Of course not. Now Tom Torlakson has finally figured out what’s at risk.
2012 is the 200th anniversary of the peak of the Luddite movement in Britain. I think it’s time everyone figured out that we’re now in the early stages of what can be seen as the biggest manifestation of Luddite thinking in world history. No, it’s not as dramatic as British laborers trashing factories to protest mechanization. But there is a reason the information technology productivity revolution that has made the U.S. private sector so vastly more efficient the past two decades has largely bypassed the public sector. It’s not just because government is slow to adapt. I think eventually it will be realized that a crucial factor was that union types realized before the rest of us that the I.T. revolution could wipe out millions of bureaucratic jobs at the local, state and federal level.
This writer is one savvy son of a gun:
The proposal of a Democratic assemblyman to keep students from eating at food trucks instead of school cafeterias is ostensibly about public health, obesity and food safety. But while nanny state motives may be in play, it’s also easy to see this as the latest conscience-free effort to keep as much money as possible coming to public schools by any means necessary. Districts statewide face a constant struggle to find enough money for the salaries and benefits of their adult employees.
The San Francisco Chronicle noted Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown had joined a challenge to the portion of 1996′s Proposition 209 that prevented state universities from using race in college admission decisions, with his lawyers telling the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the provision of state law “imposes unique political burdens on minorities” and violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. But what the media almost never point out, and the Chronicle doesn’t, is that the UC admissions status quo before 1996 indisputably punished a minority. This is particularly insane when one realizes that affirmative action is meant to atone for white racism. In California, who paid the price for this historical sin? Asian-American students. Says who? Says The New York Times, quoting UC documents.
The idea that regulations can actually interfere with the economy in a bad way is dismissed by many lefties. This group includes bloggers like the Calbuzz boys, George Skelton-style print journos, and many Dem lawmakers. But isn’t it, er, unusual that whenever a left-wing interest group is hassled by regulations, a mysterious consensus suddenly forms that these particular regulations actually interfere with the economy in a bad way?
Sooner or later, the focus on the new state budget will shift to Jerry Brown’s ideas for giving local school districts more control over their spending decisions, starting with his push to suspend classroom-size reduction rules.
Arun Ramanathan of The Education Trust West makes an absolutely critical point about what would be done with the billions of dollars going to schools if ballot measures are approved in November raising taxes in the name of “helping the kids”: