Note: The Report of the California Performance Review - Government for the People for a Change - contains four volumes of comprehensive recommendations to reform and revitalize California's state government. 275 volunteers worked tirelessly for five months examining organizational structures, analyzing data, meeting with stakeholders and compiling the recommendations. Specific recommendations related to Education were proposed. The first public hearing was held to solicit information about the recommendations.
Performance review panel holds hearing on education recommendations
At a Sept. 9 meeting in Los Angeles, the 14 members of the panel that examined Education, Training and Volunteerism for the California Performance Review presented their findings to the CPR commissioners. The team – including two school board members, two K-12 teachers, and five post-secondary teachers – said the education system is very fractured, with 16 separate entities. The education system lacks coordination and accountability, is not aligned with workforce needs, and lacks a coherent fiscal policy, they said.
The ETV panel proposed retaining the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Department of Education, state Board of Education, community college chancellor’s office and community college governing board, California State University and University of California governance, and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
But the team thought the state could save $4.1 billion with certain modifications, such as rolling back the birthday cutoff for kindergarteners from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1. They estimated that change alone would save $2.7 billion over 5 years.
Sen. James Brulte pressed the panel for an answer about whether the change in the kindergarten enrollment date would result in true savings versus a shifting of the state’s obligations. The team said only that they hadn’t had time to consider that question in the 12 weeks they spent reviewing the entire education system.
Critics of the proposal point out that if younger children are denied access to kindergarten, much of the $2.7 billion would simply be shifted to other programs such as child care and preschool.
The review panel also proposed to expand the authority of the state Board of Education to cover preschool through grade 20, or university. The charge of the CPR Commission, however, bars them from making proposals to entities established by the California constitution. Brulte questioned the team’s attention to the roles of the SPI, county superintendents and the state Board on that basis, but the team was unable to answer.
The CPR report also recommends eliminating county superintendents at the same time the settlement of the Williams case gives them more authority. Paradoxically, the contradictions both stem from initiatives that originated in the governor’s office.
A proposal to regionalize K-12 educational services now provided by county offices of education could save $4.5 billion over five years, the CPR claims. Regionalizing services now provided in each county would be more efficient and enable special education and court students to receive better service, the panel claimed. Again, they could not quantify the true savings since the services would simply be shifted elsewhere.
Imperial County Superintendent John Anderson testified that joint power agreements with other county agencies would make it impractical to remove certain educational services from the local county office. COEs work closely with other county-based agencies for social services and the courts, and forcing students to seek services at a regional location far from home would be a hardship.
Ventura County Superintendent Chuck Weiss, who attended the hearing but did not have opportunity to speak, said his first impression was that, of the CPR members, Sens. Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, were the most knowledgeable and seemed to understand the issues better than others on the panel. Testimony by Anderson and Sacramento County Superintendent David W. Gordon presented the perspectives of county offices of education well, Weiss said.
Gordon, who recently came to the county office from the Elk Grove Unified School District, made clear to the panel that areas of “meaningful overlap” exist in the relationship of county offices of education and other county agencies. He also took exception to frequent references the team made to situations in Oakland that prompted them to make recommendations about strengthening county oversight of school district finances. “From where I sit, we just don’t see those kinds of problems,” Gordon told the commissioners.
Regionalizing county office operations removes control of educational and other services from the locally elected officials who are responsible for the students, said Mina Fasulo, CSBA Assistant Executive Director, Communications.
“It was disappointing that the Commission didn’t get the benefit of hearing from folks at local and county level who could really address what’s going on and how the recommendations affect services we provide,” she said after the hearing. “Because a select group of invitees were the only ones to speak, we were silenced in our ability to provide our perspective from ground level.”
Weiss said he was interested to hear Commission chairman Bill Hauck comment that although the panel will take the day’s testimony into account, their report may not necessarily represent the perspective of the testimony received.
“Generally it was an interesting dance,” said Weiss, “but I don’t think it will have a tremendous impact on what the performance panel actually publishes.”
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