K-12 Finance and Governance Reform

Education Finance Reform

The 22 studies of the Getting Down to Facts Project, the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence, and research from the Public Policy Institute of California were consistent in their conclusions that California’s current education finance system is overly complex, irrational, burdensome, and in need of a long-term plan for comprehensive reform. It is unclear how much revenue each school district receives or how those revenues are spent.  It is, therefore, nearly impossible to report this information to local communities, stakeholders, and the state.

The current system does not adequately take into consideration student needs or regional costs.  Additionally, the current funding system is overly complex and it is not clear why some districts receive more state funding than others.

Large revenue disparities exist among schools and districts and school funding is not aligned to pupil or educator needs. The system places large restrictions on resources needed by schools and districts, which limits educators from responding to student needs. California also does not collect adequate financial data for determining resource effectiveness on all levels, which can cause inaccurate or ineffective spending. Additionally, research consistently finds that successful schools use data to shape teaching practices and innovation, but many schools and districts lack the tools to evaluate programs and practices.

The Leadership Group supports K-12 finance reform along the lines proposed by the Getting Down to Facts Project and the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence.  Such a finance system would:

  1. Invest more resources in students at the lowest end of the achievement gap through student centered budgeting
  2. Deregulate finance and link local control to outcome based accountability
  3. Eliminate almost all categorical program mandates and allow local choice to drive program selection
  4. Create local incentives to reward teaching and leadership excellence


K-12 Statewide Education Governance Reform

When it comes to serving California’s six million K-12 students, who is in charge?  Who is accountable for their success?  And, who is in charge of setting the state’s direction and strategy for improving student achievement?

California’s K-12 education governance structure is fragmented and has evolved without clear roles and responsibilities.  From the state level to the local level, there are a number of actors in K-12 governance, though the lines of accountability are not always clear.  The primary actors at the state level include the Governor and the Secretary of Education, the State Legislature, the State Board of Education, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Department of Education, and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.  At the local level, there are 58 county offices of education and more than 1,000 school districts.

As a complement to other efforts to reform the governance, budgetary and finance systems of California, the members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group believe that the time is right to undertake K-12 governance reform via statutory changes.  Those changes can be derived from recent work by commissions and research institutions, which call for improving lines of accountability.

In 2002, the Legislature created a Joint Commission to Develop a Master Plan for K-12 education that included working groups and resulted in more than 40 recommendations on governance, education finance, and accountability.  Its governance recommendations called for:

  1. Authority over the operations and delivery of the state’s pre-K through 12 public education system to reside in the Office of the Governor;
  2. Clear administrative structure that links the Governor’s Office and the Department of Education via an appointed cabinet-level chief education officer; and
  3. A change in authority for the independently-elected State Superintendent that includes all aspects of accountability (outside of fiscal).

In 2007, the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence, composed of statewide education, business and community leaders, developed recommendations on K-12 governance reform similar to those from the Master Plan Commission.  The Committee recommended the following structure:

 Finally, comprehensive research commissioned by the Governor, Legislature and the State Superintendent, which was led by Stanford University (commonly called the “Getting Down to Facts” study), found a fragmented state education governance system and recommended realigning the system to better define roles and responsibilities.  (Evaluating the “Crazy Quilt”: Educational Governance in California; by Dominic Brewer and Joanna Smith.)