Here's a recipe for educational failure: cut deeper into school funding and then completely restructure schools with the money that's not there.


The San Francisco Chronicle published an article highlighting California state officials planning to appeal the provisions of No Child Left Behind. For the past two years, California has not met its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements. Even though standardized test scores are rising, they haven’t improved enough to meet the universal proficiency requirement for all K-12 students.

To meet these AYP requirements, schools started to implement changes such as hiring graduation specialists and focusing on standardized testing preparations. But these changes are made to meet the requirements set by the federal government, not necessarily taking into account local and statewide challenges. To say that two schools failing to meet proficiency levels has to employ the same kind of reform, regardless of their unique situation, is plain absurd. A school that primarily serves low-income and high-risk youth needs a different plan to achieve the same objective as a school that serves middle-income and lower-risk students.

And if California’s schools fail to meet the 100% proficiency levels, the following can occur:

Chartering: Closing and reopening as a public charter school.
Reconstitution: Replacing school staff, including the principal, relevant to the failure in the school.
Contracting: Contracting with an outside entity to operate the school.
State Takeovers: Turning the school operations over to the state education agency.
Any Other Major Governance Restructuring: Engaging in another form of major restructuring that makes fundamental reforms.


But don’t we still need money to make even these changes? The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article highlighting Governor Jerry Brown's revised budget plan. It is pretty clear what Brown is trying to say: taxes or cuts. If his proposal to increase tax on the wealthy as well as add a 3% sales tax increase fails, the entire public school system from K-8 to community colleges will suffer. There will be less money for teachers, less space in the budget for music and arts program (which are often the first to go), and increased classroom size.

Gov. Jerry Brown has done a well enough job conveying the gravity of the situation; California’s school system isn’t making the progress it needs and cutting spending isn’t going to help. Right now is the perfect time for solidarity between Republicans and Democrats because on all sides, we need to do what is best for students. I suggest looking at school reform by each district, and letting each address local problems with full support and funding from Sacramento.

John Oliver-Santiago is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.