Legislature deep-sixes Gov. Brown’s education ‘reform’

Legislature deep-sixes Gov. Brown’s education ‘reform’

June 19, 2012

By Lance T. Izumi

Last week, I wrote about Governor Jerry Brown’s weighted-student-formula proposal, which attached a base state-funding amount plus various supplemental amounts to individual students that would then be collected by school districts.  The plan sought to increase funding flexibility for school districts, which now face an array of earmarked categorical programs that force districts to spend a significant percentage of their funding on state-mandated priorities.

Brown’s fellow Democrats in the Legislature, however, couldn’t stomach the governor’s mild reform of the funding process and eliminated weighted-student-formula from the Legislature’s budget package that came out at the end of the week.

An aide to Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said the Legislature’s action was taken because of concerns that, while Brown’s plan gave spending flexibility for districts, it did not contain accountability for results.  This criticism has some merit.  Brown’s original budget proposal in January didn’t contain any specific accountability provisions, although Brown had indicated that he planned to add a performance component to his weighted-student-formula plan sometime in the future.  Democratic legislative leaders, however, missed the more important problem with Brown’s plan.

As I pointed out, the real problem with Brown’s plan is its failure to make funding truly portable with students.  Brown sent funding to school districts, instead of backpacking dollars with students so that they could take funding to the individual school, public or private, of their choice.  Giving students and their parents this choice through vouchers or other similar portable-funding options would create incentives for all schools to improve their performance in order attract education consumers.

In their critique of Brown’s plan, Democratic legislative leaders are as guilty as the governor in failing to recognize the absence in the public school system of any significant market incentive to improve its own performance.  This blind spot prevents lawmakers from proposing a better alternative to Brown’s proposal.  The public is therefore left with a warmed-over status quo.

— Lance T. Izumi is Koret senior fellow and senior director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute, CalWatchDog.com’s parent think tank.  He is the author of Obama’s Education Takeover (Encounter Books, 2012).



Related Articles

Can Big Sis be stopped?

It is absurd that Janet Napolitano could become the head of the University of California. Other than being a student,

UC Regents approve tuition increase despite Gov. Brown objecting

A University of California Board of Regents committee voted to increase tuition at least 5 percent every year for five

Poll: Californians think higher ed is too expensive, love the quality

Californians are concerned over the cost of the state’s public colleges and universities, just as two of the state’s three