Lessons Learned
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This policy brief, the author reviews the recent experience of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) with the development and approval of Proposition A. Proposition A (also known as the Quality Teacher and Education Act, or QTEA) included a parcel tax mainly dedicated to increasing teachers’ salaries, along with a variety of measures introducing flexibility to the current salary schedule and strengthening accountability for teacher performance. Based on interviews with key stakeholders in the district, the author describes how the district and union worked together in SFUSD both to...
The Quality Teacher and Education Act in San Francisco
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In June 2008 San Francisco voters approved Proposition A, a parcel tax initiative dedicated to improving teachers’ salaries in the San Francisco Unified School District. Proposition A also provided funding for a number of innovative teacher compensation programs, including extra pay for teachers in difficult-to-staff schools and difficult-to-fill subject areas. In this policy report, the author presents a comprehensive review of Proposition A, including the process of consultation, negotiation and compromise that led to its approval and an assessment of the programs that will be funded with...
Investing in Education Facilities and Stronger Communities
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California is midway through one of the grandest public infrastructure projects ever attempted. Over the coming decade school officials will complete an $82 billion effort, building new schools and renovating old facilities, supported by taxpayers and private investors. But are state officials and local planners building schools mindfully to advance educational quality and lift local communities?
School Finance and Governance in California
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Getting Down to Facts is the largest independent investigation ever of how California governs and funds public education. It was commissioned at the request of a bipartisan group of California leaders, including the governor’s Advisory Committee on Educational Excellence, the president protem of the California Senate, the speaker of the California Assembly, the superintendent of public instruction, and the state secretary of education. The purpose of this unprecedented project was to describe California’s school finance and governance systems, identify aspects of those systems that hinder the...
Reforming California School Finance
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California’s school finance system is long overdue for reform. This policy brief proposes a new system that is more rational, more equitable, and politically feasible. At its core, the proposal aims to link district revenue to student needs and regional costs while ensuring that all districts are held harmless at current funding levels. A reformed finance system is not a complete solution to improving student achievement. Changes in governance, incentives, and accountability are also required. But a rational funding mechanism provides an essential backdrop for discussion of broader reform...
Preschool and K–12 Finance Reform in New Jersey and Texas
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In a PACE Working Paper, Co-Director Bruce Fuller and Joseph Wright offer policy and implementation lessons from two states—New Jersey and Texas—that have moved to advance preschool and K–12 finance reform in tandem. These states have assembled the puzzle pieces in differing ways, but both states are determined to widen access for families who can least afford quality preschool. The policy experiences of these states over the past quarter century yield notable lessons for current policy debate on pre-school and education finance reform in California.
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The cost of education can be defined as the minimum amount of money that a school district must spend in order to achieve a given educational outcome, such as reading at a grade-appropriate level. Costs generally differ across school districts for reasons that are outside the control of local school boards or state governments, such as the number of children with special needs. All else equal, districts with higher costs will need to spend more than districts with lower costs in order to achieve any given outcome. While many states, including California, have some adjustments for cost factors...
What Are Their Effects, and What Are Their Implications for School Finance?
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This work was conducted for the California school finance and governance project, Getting Down to Facts: A Research Project to Inform Solutions to California’s Education Problems. California and states across the nation are attempting to meet the challenge of staffing classrooms with high quality teachers. Each state has designed and implemented a web of policies targeted at teachers—from regulations on teacher education programs and certification to salary structures and recruitment and retention incentives. Despite the plethora of teacher policies, little is known about the variation in the...
Painting a Picture of Revenues and Expenditures in California’s School Districts
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PACE Co-Director Susanna Loeb has published a report analyzing the revenues and expenditures of California schools districts. The report, entitled “District Dollars: Painting a Picture of Revenues and Expenditures in California’s School Districts” was co-authored by Jason Grissom and Katharine Strunk. It was released in March 2007, along with the other “Getting Down to Facts” studies. In their report the authors examine spending and revenues across districts and across time, and compare the patterns that they observe in California to patterns in other states. Among other things, they find that...
California's High Priority School Grants Program
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Thomas Timur is an Associate Professor of Education at U.C. Davis. He has spent much of his career focusing on education policy and governance, and school finance. He is the author of a new study which examines how schools spent High Priority Schools Grant (HPSG) Program funds.

Spinning Out the Implications of the Improved School Finance
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Surely revenues are central to the quality of schooling—nearly everybody thinks so. Generations of reformers have come along, each needing more money. Advo­cates for equity have rediscovered inequalities in spending nearly every decade, from Ellwood Cubberly's complaints about reliance on local revenues a century ago; to Jonathan's Kozol's attack on "savage inequalities;" to the latest lawsuits such as Williams v. California, with its extensive documentation of disgusting bathrooms, crumbling buildings, dated textbooks, and inadequate teachers. Most school leaders and district administrators...
How Do We Assure an Adequate Education for All?
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Today, California's schools rank 44th in the nation in education spending. Per pupil spending for education in California amounted to $6,659 in fiscal year 2001–02 when adjusted for regional cost differences across the states. This figure represented 86.1 percent of the national average of $7,734 per pupil. Worse, only six-tenths of one percent of school children went to school in districts that spent more than the national average. Looking at these figures another way, California only spent 3.5 percent of total taxable resources on education, ranking 39th out of the 51 states and the District...
California Policy, the 'Improved School Finance,' and the Williams Case
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This article applies the logic of the ‘‘improved’’ school finance, arguing the need to understand how resources are used at the school and classroom levels. While California policies and most court cases have been seriously inadequate from this perspective, the recent case of Williams v. California provides new opportunities for equity since it follows the logic of the ‘‘improved’’ school finance. This article was originally published in the Teachers College Record by Teachers College, Columbia University and SAGE Publications.
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This article provides an abridged version of a report prepared for the lawsuit Williams v. State of California. The report first examines the achievement gap for English learners in California. Second, it reviews evidence in seven areas in which these students receive a substantially inequitable education vis-à-vis their English-speaking peers, even when those peers are similarly economically disadvantaged. Third, it documents the state’s role in creating and perpetuating existing inequities. Finally, it describes a series of remedies that the state could pursue to reduce these inequities...
Who Gains, Who Loses?
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Over the past 30 years, a combination of court rulings, legislative enactments, and voter initiatives has made dramatic changes in the landscape of education governance in California. The presumption of local control, a system based on local electoral accountability, has been superseded by a system of centralized, administrative accountability. Among the most sweeping changes are those that affect the way in which the state’s public schools are financed. Until 1980, paying for elementary and secondary education was largely a local matter. Local property taxes paid most of the bills. The state...
Year 2 Qualitative Implementation Study (QIS)
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This report on the second year of the implementation of San Francisco County’s CARES program (SF CARES) as a childcare retention–incentive program describes perspectives and experiences of various stakeholders regarding several components of the program’s structure, implementation, and effects. These findings are drawn from focus group data: group interviews were conducted with program planners and funders, program staff, stipend recipients, and other members of the early care and education (ECE) community in San Francisco county. In addition to detailing perspectives on the implementation and...
Year 2 Qualitative Implementation Study (QIS)
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This report on the second year of the implementation of Alameda County’s Child Development Corps (the Corps) as a childcare retention–incentive program describes perspectives and experiences of various stakeholders regarding several components of the program’s structure, implementation, and effects. These findings are drawn from focus group data: group interviews were conducted with program planners and funders, program staff, stipend recipients, and other members of the early care and education (ECE) community in Alameda county. In addition to detailing perspectives on the implementation and...
Which Families to Serve First? Who Will Respond?
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Several states are extending access to preschool for a widening range of families. Georgia has made dramatic progress toward providing preschool slots for all three and four year old children. Illinois, New Jersey, and New York have taken steps to broaden access, slowed by the economic recession and shifting government priorities. California may be joining these states. Two blue-ribbon panels have urged the state to create a plan for moving toward universal preschool (UPS), focusing first on low-income families. The proposed master plan for education, recently translated into legislation...
Which Families Use Subsidies and Home-Based or Center Care?
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Public spending on childcare and preschool has grown dramatically in recent years, rising nationwide from $6.8 to $14.3 billion between 1995 and 2000. In California, the childcare and early education budget has almost quadrupled, from $800 million in 1996 to $3.1 billion in the current fiscal year. Yet the share of low-income families who actually draw public child care support—for preschool or school-age programs—remains highly variable across states and communities. And little is known about the characteristics of families who are more likely to use child care subsidies, especially after...
Lessons for Early Education
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California previously embarked on a sizable experiment aimed at reducing the steady turnover of preschool teachers and allied childcare staff. The state’s taxpayers are now investing over $21 million annually in these county-run programs, offering salary supplements and incentives for professional development. These local experiments are blossoming largely in isolation from larger efforts in the public schools that also attempt to attract and retain a quality workforce. In just the past decade, nearly half of all states in the U.S. have mounted efforts to retain and boost the quality of...
The Early Impacts of Welfare Reform for California's Children, 1998–2000
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In 1996, the federal government passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), which included the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. TANF altered the structure of the welfare system nationwide and prodded millions of welfare recipients into jobs or welfare-to-work activities. California’s reform program, the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Act, known as CalWORKs, was enacted in 1997. The TANF and CalWORKs welfare reform initiatives included significant changes in the work support systems for parents...
California Families See Little Growth in Child Care Centers
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In 1950, just one in six mothers, with a young child under age five, worked in the paid labor force. By 2000, this share had climbed to two in every three mothers. This revolution in the economic and social roles of women has spurred rising demand for childcare. And it’s become clear that youngsters’ participation in quality center-based programs can contribute to early learning and social development. Political leaders at state and federal levels have responded in recent years, dramatically boosting expenditures on various kinds of early education—from preschools and centers to vouchers that...
Mothers and Young Children Move Through Welfare Reform
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Policy leaders in Washington and the states are engaging a new debate over an old question: How can society best aid jobless mothers and enrich their children’s lives? The dramatic reform of family welfare policies in 1996, aided by robust economic growth, has moved millions of women into low-wage jobs. But how to build from this success? Would stiffer work requirements raise more families above the poverty line? Could educational opportunities for mothers strengthen parenting? How adequate is the current supply and quality of childcare? As these and other policy options are debated, one fact...
Mothers and Young Children Move Through Welfare Reform: Executive Summary
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Policy leaders in Washington and the states are engaging a new debate over an old question: How can society best aid jobless mothers and enrich their children’s lives? The dramatic reform of family welfare policies in 1996, aided by robust economic growth, has moved millions of women into low-wage jobs. But how to build from this success? Would stiffer work requirements raise more families above the poverty line? Could educational opportunities for mothers strengthen parenting? How adequate is the current supply and quality of childcare? As these and other policy options are debated, one fact...
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For the changes under welfare reform to posi­tively affect children, the gains that mothers make from employment must lead to improve­ments in children's daily settings at home, in childcare, at school, or in the community. This article focuses on the role childcare can play in promoting the development of, and life oppor­tunities for, low-income children. Key observa­tions include: Total federal and state funding for childcare for welfare and working poor families has in­creased dramatically since welfare reform, from $2.8 billion in 1995 to $8.0 billion in 2000. The majority of welfare...