WHAT CAN/SHOULD CALIFORNIA DO TO IMPROVE PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATIONAL RESULTS?
The California Constitution guarantees the right to a free public school education in Article 9. It finds “SECTION 1. A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.” In Section 5 it requires the state legislature to assure that every child is educated. “SEC. 5. The Legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be kept up and supported in each district at least six months in every year, after the first year in which a school has been established.”
State courts in other jurisdictions (including Kentucky and Kansas) are requiring the state to step up to the plate and assure an adequate education to every public school child.
California was once a leader in offering a quality public school education. That exemplary leadership fell apart after the passage of Prop 13, and by 2010 California’s public education was one of the worst funded and worst performing, especially for low-income students.
California has been steadily increasing funding for K-12 education and is moving up to the middle ranks of public school financing. It has increased funding for local school districts serving the highest proportions of disadvantaged children. It has been making modest gains in student performance; however its public schools for poor children are not succeeding in educating the children and preparing them for college. That needs to change, and it is the responsibility of parents and local educators to demand and lead changes needed.
What are the changes that get a quality education? Well trained and high performing teachers are key; smaller class sizes for children in the younger grades are important; good educational support at home from parents is vital, and high expectations, educational leadership and accountability for improved performance are essential.
California’s educational system is being plagued and paralyzed by the “blame game”. The teacher’s unions blame the administration, the parents and the charter schools; the parents blame the teachers and administrators; local educators and administrators blame the state for not providing more funding and their union contracts for tying their hands. Stasis rules the day at a time when dynamic change is urgently needed and possible. We need strong leadership instilling educational excellence. Union leaders, local school board politicians and education policy makers at the state and local levels may need to take a good, long look in the mirror and decide to collaborate and truly put educating children first.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin
 Ibid. It is the single most important factor for academic success.