Report questions the future of California’s public education system
The viability of the state’s public education system is questioned in a new report by the Berkeley Institute for Young Americans. Part of the California 100 Initiativeadministered by the Goldman School of Public Policythe report finds that long-term structural challenges to the state financial system, combined with flaws in education governance, threaten the long-term prospects of public education.
The analysis examines how California manages and funds the early care and education (ECE), K-12, and higher education systems to assess the strengths and shortcomings of the system. Two main structural problems of the financial system emerge. These include the inadequacy of the formula for determining funding levels in ECE, K-12 or higher education and the instability of the education funding system, which can falter during recessions, fueling dramatic losses.
“California has historically underinvested in all parts of the education system, and we are all grudgingly living with the results – not enough subsidized child care spaces, low levels of K-12 academic achievement and rising tuition fees at institutions of higher learning,” Erin said. Heys, the project’s principal investigator. “Today, lawmakers are trying to make up for past underinvestment by using multi-year government budget surpluses to better fund each sector. The problem is that much of the new funding is one-time rather than ongoing, which means the new funding schools and colleges currently have will be at risk in a future downturn. This fundraising roller coaster has gone on far too long. To ensure the longevity and success of public education in California, legislators must invest in the adequacy and sustainability of the financial system.
Looking ahead, the rise of alternative education models must also be combated, the researchers suggest.
“As California finds itself at a crossroads of change, this report is intended to start a conversation for stakeholders to consider what education in California might look like a century from now,” said Sarah Swanbeck, executive director of the Berkeley Institute for Young Americans and co-author of the report. “Alternative education models are taking root in California today and challenging the longevity of the public system, but there are important trade-offs that must be seriously considered. We encourage readers to consider how equity enters students, the quality of education and the democratic goals of education are represented in different models and what reforms, if any, might be needed to steer the system towards a better future.