The education reform community (almost) unanimously agrees that Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) has failed students. This law has put a large emphasis on standardized testing and “accountability” while ignoring the individual needs of students, educators, and the schools themselves. When Obama came into office, education reformers were optimistic that his administration would reverse some of the adverse effects of NCLB. Obama’s “Race to the Top”, however, turned out to be a re-hash of the same failed policies of the previous administration. Since Obama’s current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will (most likely) retain his position, it is unlikely that we will see major changes in national education policy. Thus, we have to turn our sights elsewhere for such change.
Luckily, we do not need to look further than the state of California. Two weeks ago, California Governor Jerry Brown delivered his “State of the State” address. During that speech, Gov. Brown gave special focus to the education policies he wishes to pursue this year. Notably, Gov. Brown wants to place control over education in the hands of local school boards instead of complicated, remote bureaucracies. In Governor Browns Words:
“I ask you [California lawmakers] to consider the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the idea that a central authority should only perform those tasks which cannot be performed at a more immediate or local level. In other words, higher or more remote levels of government, like the state, should render assistance to local school districts, but always respect their primary jurisdiction and the dignity and freedom of teachers and students.”
However, this principle must be treaded carefully. Localized control over schools can give rise to increased inequities in educational progress. For example, a school in a poor neighborhood with many non-native English speakers will not have a school board as effective as a school in Silicon Valley. In order to ameliorate such inequities, Gov. Brown also plans to distribute funds in the areas where they are most needed. Under this “Local Control Funding Formula”, schools in poorer districts would get supplemental from the State Government.
The two-hit plan that Gov. Brown wishes to pursue is ambitious. If Gov. Brown succeeds with his plans, then California can serve as a model for the rest of the nation. The education reform community–and the rest of the country–should keep an eye on California in the upcoming months.
About The Author: Edwin Portugal is a senior at the Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, CT. Next fall, he will be a freshman at Brown University. At Brown, he plans to pursue a wide range of topics and concentrate in the study of public policy with a focus on health and education policy.
You can read his blog edpolicies.blogspot.com.
Follow him on Twitter at @edpolicies.