Archive for the ‘Public Policy Institute of California’ Category

Remind Me of Effects of Poverty on Children in School 

Friday, July 7th, 2017
 California high school in region of poverty

California high school in region of poverty

A good thing for schools occurred in the Supreme Court this month. A decision keeps intact the constitutional provision by thirty-nine states to refuse to use funds for vouchers to private and parochial schools. Although the decision allowed funds to refurbish a parochial school’s day care playground, it was a narrow provision that safeguards the states from their voucher prohibition.

In addition, if you didn’t read about an American Federation of Teachers’ poll, 74% of U.S. voters oppose the president’s budget proposal, of which 54% strongly oppose, and of which 48% were Trump voters. The NAACP (2016 national conference) passed a resolution to support a moratorium on charter school expansion. Too many conflicting reports suggested a slow-down.

Upcoming on July 19, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, is the keynote speaker at American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in Denver, Colorado. Interesting to see if there are any revisions in her voucher, civil rights, and budget policies. In August 2017, if the members of Congress do take a recess (some news articles suggest perhaps not) to their home states, it is up to teachers and administrators to hold firm against the president’s budget and voucher agenda. (from, 6/30/2017 email)

With the status of school funds legislation and event attendance in mind, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has issued a report, The Geography of Child Poverty in California, by Sarah Bohn and Caroline Danielson, February 2017. Every state might replicate the report if not already available. Children of school age are affected by poverty from the day they are born. Of the 1.9 million United States children in poverty, 754,000 live in California. “These adverse circumstances [true in every state] lead to long-term physical, social, and behavioral consequences affecting future education and economic well-being.” p. 1 “Summary,” Geography of Child Poverty.

The major points in the report, although referring to California numbers, affect children in regions of the entire country:

  • One quarter of children live in poverty. This includes Latino, African-American, children of immigrant, young, and single parents. Interventions should focus on these groups.
  • In most poor families, at least one parent works.
  • Coping with housing cost and maintaining work and enough money resources differ in the regions of the state. In some areas, housing cost exceeds more than half of earnings. In others, families manage only by living in over-crowded housing.
  • Safety net programs can help reduce child poverty. However, the impact is better in low cost regions. Poor families in high-earning areas (earn more, but pay more for housing) cannot receive safety net benefits because the requirements don’t take into account the high cost of living.

To correct these facts the state must account for geographic differences in order to adopt approaches that will provide children with economic security. For each geographic region, changes in the housing burden on poor families, safety net adjustments, and employment leading to economic security are the goals.

Looking at Congress and California legislature, there is some hope. The House of Representatives on June 22, 2017 passed HR2353, “Strengthening Career and Technology Education for the 21st Century Act.” The bill will support education in culinary arts, HVAC repair, health care, pre-law, and Emergency Medical Training. Sounds good for every student, especially those who don’t immediately aim for college. However, the bill is now in committee in the Senate, so who knows?

In the California Assembly bill AB 1520 “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force” has passed and is now in the Senate. The legislation provides a task force to look at the problems identified by the PPIC report. The questions are: How long before it becomes actual legislation and is signed by the governor? How long before results are seen from the task force?

May you keep in mind the number and percent of your state’s population that must overcome the long- term circumstances that impoverish families. It’s a systemic problem. Unless government focuses on where poor children live, addresses those entrenched circumstances of poverty, and surmounts them, every child will not manage to do well enough to be lifted out of poverty and succeed in school and post-school.


Advocating for Pre-K 

Saturday, May 14th, 2016
Arena Union Elementary eligible for Pre-K

Arena Union Elementary eligible for Pre-K

The final days of yearly tests approach and schools look for student achievement progress under the Common Core State Standards.

Many teachers, mainly in states using Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career assessments, better known as PARRC, complain about the weight of the tests toward accountability of school success. Some parents in those states are fed up with testing and continue to opt-out so their students miss school on test days.

At the same time, a growing set of studies advocate the need for universal pre-kindergarten as a means of preparing children so that when they attend elementary, middle, and high school they can succeed in every part of the school year.

It is also true, however, that not all states can assure parents of successful high quality pre-K programs.

After two years of legislation in the California government, the first bill was vetoed and the second bill is, as of this moment, mired in the appropriations committee, i.e., $$$.

In California, approximately 22,000 children, mainly at low-income funded sites, attend Head Start, Early Start, and state pre-schools and transitional kindergarten to prepare for later academic success. That leaves, currently, 34,000 eligible children without a program. Remember, these numbers reflect California, but the numbers country-wide average the same.

Why should the 34,000 eligible for access have a place to go? The studies provide evidence that those students over all have increased cognition, social, language (especially English Language Development), and emotional development skills – that is, they’re ready for academics. They are less likely to enter the juvenile justice system. More likely to graduate from high school. Incarceration and welfare costs decrease. Above all, parents of and students who do well in school are more likely to move out of poverty.

In Santa Clara County, where Silicon Valley economics dominate, pockets of families do not have the resources to send their 4-year-old children to pre-school. There are not enough locations in the areas where eligible children live. The state doesn’t yet provide enough resources to upgrade sites and fund teachers in the seven major school districts in the county. Some major cities manage to provide limited support of $5,000 per child for programs.

The Santa Clara county Office of Education is sponsoring Strong Start to galvanize a coalition of co-sponsors including six school districts, five early education foundations, six non-profit foundations, League of Women Voters, the 6th District PTA, and endorsed by Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, Edsource, the Clinton Foundation, and, of course, the early learning agenda advocated by the President of the United States. All to expand access to and increase investment in pre-K for all children in the county.

The main obstacle is the $$$. A Public Policy Institute of California survey shows that 68% of Californians feel it’s very important to provide pre-K to promote success in higher grades; 76% overall feel that public funds should be spent on the effort; and almost one-half of the respondents had no children under 18 at home.

Nevertheless, another PPIC question about affordability showed concern that the cost exceeds public college costs and worry about moving California budget surplus funds to support the plan. The first legislation for pre-K expansion was vetoed by Governor Brown because he states the state education budget makes revisions and any change should be made in that process.

On Friday, May 13, 2016, Governor Brown released the revised budget which must be completed by June 15 for 2016-17. Although in January the impression was that the budget could increase early learning and childcare, on Friday the governor wanted to hold the line on new programs and boost the monies to the state’s cash reserves.

On the side, it has been stated that the governor also thinks that parents should be in charge of their children until they enter school.

Let’s see our dollars well-spent! We know testing is time-consuming and can be useless. Assessments aren’t needed to see that some schools are struggling – we know that too. Tests should be analyzed to see what’s working and make further improvements.

And dollars spent to help students and families step up to better lives is worthwhile. Money should provide access to early learning for young children, ahead of their regular days in school, so their assessments and future can improve.




Look Ahead

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

The education world is looking for fiscal help. If you listened to the State of the Union speech last night, Tuesday, January 24, 2012, you have heard that the way to make your state strong is to invest in education. You even saw some people who actually have done better by going back to school to improve vocational and academic skills. A 2010 report titled College Bound: Strategies for Access and Success for Low-Income Students published by the University of Southern California is the latest to cross this blog’s desk. Everyone is thinking.

high school in the Los Angeles area

high school in the Los Angeles area

Not only is California at the cliff’s edge, all states are looking into the abyss. Few states are not “at risk” and even those lucky states must address reinvestment in young and old adults. Find ways to stick it out in school or renew skills.

This blog has talked about dropping out and graduation from high school, another issue of the day for all states. In California, the main issue revolves around the money available to the state government. Tax initiatives are being put forward for the November 2012 ballot.

Do any of the following bring to mind the fiscal issue in your state? It is said that California leads the nation in legislation that takes effect.

A worry, according to Rachel Norton of the San Francisco School Board, California “voters’ clear desire for a solution” will dissolve when asked to choose among the many initiatives gaining prominence.

As has been noted in this blog, California’s Governor Jerry Brown has gained enough signatures for his initiative to be on the ballot. As is being fought in the federal government, it will increase temporarily taxes for the wealthy by 2%, increase temporarily sales tax by ½ cent, and guarantee that $7 billion is spent on education. Today, January 25, 2012, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has noted in its latest poll taken in January 2012 that 68% of likely voters of all stripes will vote “yes” to the governor’s proposal.

Another tax initiative by the Think Long Committee, detailed in this blog as the Think Long Blueprint, is set to improve the state’s finances, not just the schools. Read the details of the committee on the internet.

Another event associated with Next California and California Forward under James Fishkin from Stanford University has shown the lack of knowledge in California. After a turn in Torrance, California, the nearly 500 participants came to the following conclusions which leads this blog to the following questions. How can voters defeat tax proposals in one poll and 68% approve in another? How can outrage with the initiative process be turned around and accepted as is in a poll? How can participants still think that a good part of government is wasteful when schools, which all voters love, are about to lose $4.8 billion if the favored tax bill doesn’t pass?

Another proposition not explained on this blog has not yet been approved. It is the state Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the civil rights group called The Advancement Project initiative “Our children, Our Future” that asks for $10 billion in new revenue, all of which is for Pre-K to 12. Remember Prop 98? Similar. What is included to make this tax more viable is the phrase for re-approval after twelve years.

Other initiatives not yet approved call for a tax on oil and gas extraction and a “split roll” tax. A split roll affects Prop 13 and makes corporations pay a different property tax rate than home properties.

Will you read your ballot pamphlet? Will you use your money on schools (public, private, charter) or will you turn away?

More on Tenure – Good riddance? Save Money?

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Two weeks ago a number of newly-elected governors joined a few die-hard education officials in another tirade about teacher tenure. The gist of the argument states that education improves when teachers unions give up tenure.

Even after labor’s one hundred years of bargaining to gain fair pay, safe working conditions, health and pension benefits, and the right to work without arbitrary dismissal, the easy thing to say when revenue dries up is unionized teachers have too much.

Anecdotes abound about highly paid teachers who are past their days of productive teaching. Classes full of students with low scores on state tests are the fault of those teachers. If they were gone, student scores would go up, schools would improve, and districts would not need so much to balance the budget. That’s what the rant tries to make the listener believe.

Nowadays, approximately 2.3 million public school teachers in the United States have tenure. It is true that the system can generate problems. The union system protects incompetent teachers by making dismissal difficult and time-consuming, by doling out money for paid leave and substitutes.

Here is what districts and states do to mitigate the problem of incompetent teachers. (From the November 17, 2008, Time article, “A Brief History of Tenure” by M. J. Stephey.)

The least effective is what California Governor Schwarzenegger called “the dance of the lemons” which means move poor teachers around to other schools. Then comes separation agreements, i.e., pay to leave-sounds like what happens to corporate CEO’s.

In 1997 Oregon abolished tenure, but replaced the benefit with two-year renewal of contracts and programs to help low-performing staff.

In other states, tenure is revoked, but due process remains before dismissal. A few states, like Colorado (see post 9-29-10), are trying a system to avoid tenure altogether by basing evaluation on yearly goals that determine salary and professional movement. A set of steps for improvement is provided before the teacher is dismissed.

The trouble with the obsession over abolishing tenure is that dismissing incompetent teachers and banking the funds will not save the low-performing schools, nor the funds that have disappeared because of a recession or a state legislature’s poor budget management.

Poor school finance measures fail to provide equal opportunities for students. In California in May 2010 (see post 6-2-10) a lawsuit on the behalf of teachers, students, parents, and school boards was brought to court against the state. To summarize, the status of California education finances are inequitable, inadequate, and overly complex.

Here are five proposals (At Issue: School Finance Reform by Margaret Weston, November 2010) from the Public Policy Institute of California, specifically devoted to California’s budget mess, but applicable to many states’ school budget problems. The steps are proposed with the funds available in California’s 2010-2011 budget. No revenue increase is expected.

Meet resource needs. No state can expect success using a one-size-fits-all spending ratio. Some students require more extensive help; for example, transportation costs are higher for distant rural students.

Structure incentives properly. For instance, English Language Learners struggle to achieve academically, but if the state awards failing schools, where is the financial incentive to help those schools improve?

Allocate funds transparently. Dispensing funds to school districts is only understood by a few financial wizards. Why? If the state needs revenue for schools, the tax-paying citizens need to understand the system.

Treat similar districts equitably. Allocate base funds at equitable per-pupil rates. Allocate extra costs equally; for example, to ELL students and special education students. Now, the expenditure rationale is almost always based on historical factors, not the current reality.

Balance state and local authority. Individual school districts have unique needs. Plan for local decision-making authority in exchange for accountability.

The report never speaks of eliminating tenure as a tool to improve school budgets. It does mention accountability, where tenure issues meet a better evaluation process for teacher, administrator, and school board.

Money, Money, Money, Money

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

I don’t know about every other one of the forty-nine states plus the District of Columbia, but in California, money budgeted for schools is the issue of the day-every day.

On April 17, Jack O’Connell, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, gave a speech at an education conference in Irvine, California, and reported an estimate of 30 thousand pink slips had been sent out to teachers in the public schools, but with $3.1 billion in federal stimulus funds, he hoped that students would have teachers in the fall, whether or not the California budget crisis would be resolved in May special elections.

That very evening I heard a speech by Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, who said whatever other districts did, San Francisco was going to use rainy day reserves to make sure teachers weren’t laid off.

By the end of April, tempers were rising.  The California Poll (Mervin Field), results released April 29, 2009, predicted failure for the California special election on May 19 for propositions 1A and 1B which will determine the school budgets for next year.

Why?  Voters are skeptical that 1A will achieve its goals.  So, in an attempt to recoup some of school funding, the California Teachers Association insisted on 1B, but it will only be implemented if 1A also gets approved.

Confusion is widespread.  Another poll conducted the final week of April by the Public Policy Institute of California shows why.  Simply put, voters value education and want to see improvement, but currently they have a hard time seeing themselves pay for it.

Good luck as of May 6, about half of the allocated federal stimulus money was being disseminated in California, San Francisco Chronicle, “School districts’ stimulus millions,” May 6, 2009.  It will tide the schools over, but not provide the stable funding that schools need.  There is still more to be spent as seen in the chart displayed in the New York Times, May 13, 2009.

Then, at least in California, bad luck presented itself in the budget revisions forecasted if the special election proposals aren’t approved.  Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2009 and San Francisco Chronicle, May 14 and 15, 2009.

You haven’t paid attention to the doom and gloom?  It will be very dark when a possible $5.3 billion is cut from K-12 and community college budgets, not to mention the universities.  Besides, no more stimulus funds will be dispersed to ease the pain if the state budget is cut too deeply.

“Money makes the world go round”…or not.