California School Funding L Jones Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

It moves things forward, but by inches, not by yards."

Again, using the acquisition and retention of "adequate" and competent teachers is an excellent example of the inadequacy of the current system -- even after the Williams settlement -- simply because the system, nor the funds have been adjusted to provide the level of education required in the schools. For instance, again according to Schrag:

it doesn't, however, contain any major incentives to attract and retain qualified teachers in impacted schools: There are no provisions for more preparation time, or smaller classes or the additional support personnel - counselors, reading specialists, librarians, vice principals - that schools and teachers serving disadvantaged students especially need (Schrag, 2004).

Although, as some might suggest, many teachers are willing to dedicate themselves on principle to providing adequate (or even above-adequate) education for their students even in the most difficult of situations, one has to wonder just how long they will last before "burning out." Additionally, in a culture that supposedly values education, one has to also wonder just why teachers are continually expected to operate out of altruistic motives at a higher level than the general population. To assume such a position simply is neither practical nor realistic.

Of course, in a post-Williams reality, in which the focus has shifted from equity to adequacy, one has to turn to issues of just how much additional funding and under what kind of reforms that funding will spring in order for schools to perform in an "adequate" fashion. Thus, not only must the concept of an "adequate education" be clearly defined on several levels (from facilities, to supplies, programs, and teacher qualifications, numbers, and characteristics), but also serious consideration of funding reforms must be preformed as well.

One thing that is abundantly clear throughout the state is that there is simply not enough funding at the moment to accomplish adequate education across all schools in California. Of course, many people point to the legacy of Proposition 13 as the fundamental and underlying reason for this reality. However, even given the average Californian's resistance to increased taxation, one has to wonder if those same Californian's would be willing to adjust (at least partially) in that resistance with the goal of increasing the per-pupil spending in state schools -- provided that a workable plan were developed to actually apply that spending in an effective manner.

Of course, Californians hardly have their collective heads in the sand with regard to the terrible consequences of an inadequate school system. In fact, according to Howard Ryan in his article "Targeting Proposition 13 and Saving California," "California was once a national leader in the quality of its schools and other public services." Of course, this was no accident, but, instead, reflective of the general importance most Californians place upon quality schools and school programs. However, because of Proposition 13, in which California voters passed sweeping property tax relief measures in 1978 in a veritable "tax revolt," (Ryan, 2002) California schools lag far behind much of their national counterparts in per-student funding.

Thus, one of the most commonly cited proposed "remedies" to the lack of funding available to schools (and other California programs) is to reform the property tax system under Proposition 13 -- specifically by reassessing commercial property to adequately represent true market value (which it famously does not currently), thereby increasing revenue accrued from the resulting tax increase, the "recapture" of lost (due to under valuation) residential property taxes through "transfer taxation" (obviously, one of the least popular alternatives for many), and by reforming the current two-thirds voting requirements in the State Legislature (Ryan).

Again, the likelihood of any of these reforms is highly questionable. After all, tax increases are famously unpopular among the populace -- regardless of state. However, of the three, the reform of the voting requirements may have the ability to garner the greatest support of the three measures -- especially following the budget fiasco that the state has so recently experienced under Schwarzenegger.

Simply stated, by empowering the legislature to approve new taxes and spending policies by majority instead of the currently crippling two-thirds vote (in which a minority can effectively bottleneck or even kill an otherwise majority held opinion), would enable the legislature to reap no less than tow to five billion in "unjustified tax expenditures" annually (Ryan). Thus, "the state would have greater flexibility to plan for and respond to emerging needs and demands" (Ryan).

Be that as it may, many people still view the likelihood of serious reform of Proposition 13 to be mere "pie in the sky" dreaming -- that Californians are simply unwilling to welcome changes to their property tax system -- especially changes that cause a noticeable increase. Further, even changes of the legislative voting process could be opposed out of fear in some special interest sectors (in those that currently reap the benefits of those "unjustified tax expenditures." Therefore, it may be more useful to consider changes from within the system as it stands that might allocate the funds that do exist in a more efficient manner.

One of the most commonly cited methods of "internal" or "as is" reform within the parameters of the current status quo that is proposition 13 is by changing the methods by which existing funds are allocated (once assessed) to individual districts. This is simply because, like most large organizational entities, school districts are famous for bureaucratic inefficiency. Although this is a problem that most spheres of publicly funded agencies deal with, the unique nature of the relationship between the bureaucrats on the district level with the actual educators on the individual school level in itself creates significant problems in the allocation of existing funds (such that they are).

Currently, the state school system fully allows district officials to allocate funds to specific in school programs. Thus, even if the group of educators that make up the school setting do not agree with the agenda or programs that are implemented or advocated at the bureaucratic level, they have little recourse or power to "redirect" those funds to areas, programs, and issues that they deem to be fundamental to the success of their particular student body, situation, or challenges.

By changing the way that decisions are made regarding the allocation of existing funds, it only makes sense that in many cases levels of school "adequacy" can improve. After all, it is the professional within the school (as opposed to the district office) that are the most qualified to assess the needs of the student body. By placing the power of funds allocation in the hands of those in possession of real student needs, it only stands to reason that the utility of those funds will increase dramatically.

Real-word examples of the "disconnect" between the allocation of funds and the actual needs of a particular school are easy to find or even imagine. Take for instance, the possibility that a particular district official is (perhaps for political reasons), particularly enamored of a particular program. One example may be "Whole Language" instruction. if, after becoming "convinced" in his or her office environment that Whole Language is the "way to go," he or she can allocate a large percentage of available funds to that program. Yet, educators in the schools under the supervision of the district itself may realize that Whole Language just doesn't seem to work for them. Instead, they may realize that their students (for whatever reason) tend to respond more positively to literacy instruction based on phonics. Under the present system not only will they be forced (for lack of a better alternative) to use a methodology or program that does not provide adequate educational benefit for their students, but they will be prevented from using those funds to purchase or implement a phonics program. This is clearly inefficiency at its worst.

In closing, it is all too clear that the current level of "adequacy" overall in the California public school system is far below standard. Although this can be clearly traced to inadequate levels of funding, it can also be traced to bureaucratic inefficiency and faulty assumptions about just how existing funds should be allocated (and by whom). One thing is clear, however, and that is in an environment in which adequate funding does not exist, it is all the more imperative for the funding that is present to be utilized in the most efficient and individualized manner possible. Thus, if more revenue simply cannot be generated through tax and legislative reform, then at the very least the revenue should be well-spent according to the needs of each school -- especially when the schools themselves can have "special needs."

Perhaps state school funding may be leaning more to a true representation of "equitable spending" of the resources that do exist. However, when the funds, systems, programs, and assets…

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