California Democrats Vote to Eliminate High School Exit Exams

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

A key budget committee included the bombshell in a package aimed at trimming the K-12 budget by $10 million this year and next. Six Democrats on the budget conference committee voted to do away with the exit exam requirement Tuesday while four Republicans opposed it.

The committee’s recommendations typically hold great sway in subsequent budget negotiations.

No one in the education community saw the critical exit exam requirement vote coming, including state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

“No heads-up, no hearing. No public notice on it,” he said angrily Wednesday. . . .

The proposal to cut the program comes as legislators and the governor are under pressure to solve the state’s $24.3 billion deficit by the end of July. Eliminating the exit exam requirement would save the state about $8 million a year.

California’s K-12 education budget is at approximately $72 billion from all sources. Therefore, $8 million for a high-school exit exam is a very low cost in the overall scheme of education funding. Rather than cutting a low-cost accountability mechanism that allows parents and taxpayers to at least a minimally evaluate high school performance, the state should be reducing funding for programs that are duplicative, inefficient, ineffective, or overbudgeted.

For example, the state could end the Year-round schools grant that goes randomly to a few districts at $96 million or $32 million for child care extendended day programs that duplicate after school child-care programs. The state could save billions by eliminating the duplicative funding directed at County offices of education which are redundant in a state with local school districts and a state board of education. And if California were willing to give up the sacred cow of class-size reduction, which has shown almost no evidence of improving student achievement in California, close to $2 billion could be redirected to the general education fund.

The bottom line is the state needs to eliminate programs on a line-item basis. Programs that offer taxpayers an idea of how schools are performing should NOT be first in line.