Thursday, June 12, 2008

Budgets and California schools

Recent articles celebrating the passage of Prop.13 deliberately avoid some of the basic issues. Since its passage, California’s schools have been destructively under funded. We have gone from one of the best school systems to 29th in per pupil expenditure. California students now score 47th out of the 50 states on the NAEP, a national test of reading and math. The NAEP Reading Scores for California give an average score of 209; we rank right along with Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia.
The NAEP results are important because schools and teachers can drill for the state tests, but NAEP measures against national standard of whether children can actually read (NAEP, 2007). California has remained with these poverty stricken states for the last 20 years. Remember when the ideologues all claimed that by switching to phonics reading scores were going to go up?

California schools have dramatically increased class sizes and have severely cut back on counselors thus promoting violence and drop outs. Over half of the schools are in crisis caused specifically by lack of sufficient funds.
It does not have to be this way. Voters could keep Prop.13 benefits for private home owners but use actual assessed valuation of property for corporate property- the split roll approach. This simple change would immediately solve our state budget crisis, and the one coming next year.
We need all of the children in the state well educated to have a prosperous economy. Unless we change Prop.13, adopt a split roll, our schools are sinking toward those of Alabama and Mississippi.
We cannot have sustained prosperity without decent schools, and we will not have decent schools unless we amend Prop. 13.

Dr. Duane E. Campbell
School of Education
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