Today NPR released the second part in the series on School Funding, Can more money fix America’s schools?. As rational people, we all realize that money alone is not pixie dust that guarantees education success for our students. Several generations ago, we learned about the impact of families and communities as an outcome of Section 402 of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act resulted in a 700-page report filed by James S. Coleman, a sociologist, released in 1966. For that era, the startling conclusion was that families had the largest impact on successful education outcomes. This finding continues to motivate the CAPTA even today, as evident in their support of Assembly Bill 2680 which addresses funding for parent engagement plans that can be measured through LCAP participation.
However, parent engagement alone is not sufficient. The NPR piece went on to conclude that, whether measured through the lens of testing (closing real-time achievement gap, Study A) or long-range income (measures of social-emotional learning, Study B), there is a significant impact that consistent, baseline funding will have on student education outcomes. This conclusion is true when the funding:
- reaches those students that are disadvantaged or in greatest need
- is steady and sustainably increased, not just one-time and earmarked
- feeds directly into the classroom experience, through teacher training, curriculum, and smaller classroom sizes
Of course, I stress the words baseline funding, because all schools need a minimum amount to maintain facilities, hire qualified teachers and provide curriculum resources. Sadly, a recent ruling (April 20, 2016) on Robles-Wong v. State of California held that the California Constitution does not guarantee the right to an adequate level of education as defined by funding or by qualitative measures, stipulating only that the state must provide for a “system of common schools.” This leaves education advocates concerned that adequate state funding is not guaranteed. The CAPTA will continue to advocate for increased funding because not doing so violates its duty to provide and sustain the system it has established.