Real Education Reform in California

In Sunday’s Sacramento Bee, Daniel Weintraub called for radical reform of California’s education system: * For kindergarten through 12th grade education, maintain state standards, assessment and accountability, then free local districts to pursue those goals with minimal interference from Sacramento. The review commission’s idea of creating “contract districts” free of state regulation as long as they produce results is an excellent one. * Remove the existing state Department of Education from under the control of the elected state superintendent and place it under the governor, like most other state agencies. Consolidate the department with the existing secretary for education and child development. * Either eliminate the state superintendent’s job or, if it must remain, leave it standing as an accountability officer, an independent public watchdog with no line authority over education spending. * Eliminate the appointed state Board of Education, or preserve it in an advisory role only. * Eliminate 58 county boards of education and superintendents, and replace them, as the governor’s review suggested, with 11 regional superintendents appointed by the governor to administer programs that serve multiple school districts. * Transform the Community College system into a statewide network similar to the University of California and the California State University systems. Instead of local boards of trustees and separate administrations at every campus, the system would be coordinated by a statewide board of governors with local administration as needed at each campus. * Set accountability standards for the community colleges and university systems. Assess their transfer and graduation rates, for example, and report how long it takes a typical student to graduate from each campus. Weintraub concludes that: These changes are radical. They eliminate huge swaths of bureaucracy and many elected jobs. They centralize authority in Sacramento where appropriate and, in other cases, disperse control to local communities. Interests groups would squeal – loudly – about every detail proposed here. The governor would have to campaign hard for the constitutional amendment that would be required. But these changes are long overdue and, in the long run, would leave California with an education system that makes sense for the 21st Century.