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This article examines how district administrators’ conceptions of equity relate to the implementation of finance reform. The authors use sensemaking theory and four views of equity—libertarian, liberal, democratic liberal, and transformative—to guide a case study of two districts, finding evidence of two conceptions of equity: (1) greater resources for students with greater needs, and (2) equal distribution of resources for all students. One district demonstrated an organization-wide belief in the first conception, whereas the other conveyed individual-level understandings of both conceptions...
How a Research Center Based at USC Rossier, Stanford and UC Davis Is Helping California Forge Its Own Path in Advancing Its Education System
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In May 2016, on the Monday following USC Rossier’s two commencement ceremonies, more than 50 policymakers, philanthropists, and researchers gathered bright and early across the street from the USC campus for a two-day conference. The goal? Hashing out a research agenda that would inform teacher policy in California and beyond. USC Rossier Professors Julie Marsh and Katharine Strunk hosted the convening under the sponsorship of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). Founded in 1983, PACE is based at three academic institutions—the USC Rossier School of Education, Stanford University’s...
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The economic and political importance of education has increased dramatically over the course of the past century. Education is the largest item of public expenditure in countries around the world, and formal schooling consumes an ever-larger quantity of young people’s time. The centrality of education in modern societies is mainly a consequence of state action. The state has built and expanded national education systems; encouraged and sometimes compelled young people to attend school; and fostered rewards systems that make adult success increasingly contingent on academic persistence and...
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The quality of teaching in a school results from a range of factors, including available resources, curriculum, and instructional leadership, but it is also driven by the individuals who teach in each classroom. The staffing of teachers in schools, in turn, is a product of both recruitment and retention practices. This article describes how the choices of teachers and the actions of schools and districts influence who enters the profession and who stays. It then identifies common policy approaches for advancing recruitment and retention goals and summarizes the current research, discussing the...
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Over the past two decades, the economics of education has grown rapidly as a field. Previously, scholars and policymakers tended to view education and economics as separate realms, with economics applied to the study of private goods and education as a public good. Economics has been characterized as cold and impersonal due to its focus on firms, rational self-interested individuals, and cost–benefit decision making. On the surface, all of these appear to be unrelated to the social and moral values associated with educating children. As school systems in developed countries have come under...
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...
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...
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...
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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...
How Mothers Balance Work Requirements and Parenting
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This paper examines the reasoning and experiences of mothers in selecting childcare while trying to meet welfare-to-work requirements. Three theoretical positions that have been used to look at child care selection—rational choice, structuralist, and cultural—are examined and critiqued in light of a structural developmental psychology perspective. The paper reports on semi-structured, open-ended interviews with seven mothers from three different ethnic groups—African-American, Anglo, and Latina—who range in age from 21 to 42. Interviews covered a 15 month period following the mothers’...
The Influence of Family Structure, Parental Practices, and Home Language
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Recent work reveals sharp disparities in which types of children participate in center and preschools. Enrollment rates are especially low for Latino children, relative to Black and Anglo preschoolers, a gap that remains after taking into account maternal employment and family income. Early attempts to model parents' likelihood of enrolling their youngster in a center have drawn heavily from the household-economics tradition, emphasizing the influence of cost and family income. Yet this article shows that after controlling for household-economic factors, the household's social structure and...
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Historically, the education productivity problem has been rising resources with flat or only slowly rising student achievement. In the period 1960–1990, infla­tion-adjusted revenues per pupil rose by slightly more than 200%. However, despite a number of positive performance indi­cators, student achievement in core subject areas during the same period rose only modestly. The future productivity problem is producing much higher student achievement, the goal of current education reform, with stable resources, because education resources have been flat for the past five years and are unlikely to...
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After taking a back seat to education reform pro­grams during the 1980s, school finance is again in the forefront. With the re­cent sweeping state supreme court deci­sions overturning school finance struc­tures in Kentucky, New Jersey, and Tex­as, and with active or planned cases in 23 additional states, education finance liti­gation, fiscal inequities, and school fi­nance reform have rebounded to high places on state education policy agendas. This article discusses the changing contours of school finance through the 1970s and 1980s and outlines the key is­sues in school finance for the 1990s...
Not Whether, But What
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Choice. It is a pleasant enough sound­ing word. In some contexts, "choice" conjures up notions of freedom and de­mocracy, concepts and conditions Ameri­cans revere. In specific application to education, choice describes a set of sys­tems or processes by which parents are able to choose the school their child at­tends. What could be controversial about that? Yet debate surrounding the issue of choice has sparked a war of rhetoric that has reached schools and local com­munities, corporate boardrooms, state legislative chambers, and even Congress and the White House. Choice is not a new issue. It...
California and Senate Bill 813
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In 1983, the California legislature enacted a series of incentive programs intended, in part, to encourage local school districts to devote more resources toward instructional expenditures. Analysis of district response to those incentives shows they were more effective in directing spending toward direct instruction than were general or categorical grants. However, it appears that as the incentive funds were rolled into general aid revenues, district spending patterns began to revert to the same distribution of expenditures observed prior to enactment of the incentives. This article was...
A Comparison of Education Reforms in the United States and Great Britain
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The new international economy is affecting more than business. It is also reshaping education in many industrialized nations. The need for a more highly educated workforce is stimulating policy makers to expand access to schooling and enhance its quality. Specific educational reforms enacted by a nation depend upon conditions such as historical developments, existing institutional arrangement, and current economic balances. However, despite continuing differences among the world's schooling systems, the emerging global economy virtually demands that nations now address similar educational...
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This paper argues that the components of educa­tional provisions which satisfy private demands, mythology aside, almost invariably win out over the public goods components. If true, this leads, on the one hand, to a diminished supply of social benefits, and, on the other, to a stifling of social mobility. Insofar as these arguments are correct, they also may apply in most coun­tries of the world, whether capitalist or socialist. This article was originally published in the Journal of Education Finance by the University of Illinois Press and Journal Storage (JSTOR).

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Until about 1980, the issues surrounding public school finance remained the same. They were fiscal in nature and included spending inequalities related to differences in school district property wealth per pupil; technicalities related to various state equalization formulas; funding structures that recognized higher costs for special student populations; and, in some in­stances, state/local tax levels and burdens by income class. The major concern was how equitably to finance education in general. Stimulated largely by legal action mandating change, school fi­nance reform with respect to these...
The Link Between Assessment and Financial Support
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Public school policy mak­ing is embedded in a complex societal matrix. It is not possi­ble to consider the future of U.S. schools without examining the size and distribution of future populations; the future state of the economy and its ef­fect on funds available for the schools; and the political context within which decisions will be made. The public school system is a "dependent variable" of larger social and economic forces. This article was originally published in the Phi Delta Kappan by Phi Delta Kappa International and Journal Storage (JSTOR).
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Less than three years have elapsed since the release of A Nation at Risk and the accom­panying calls to improve U.S. public schools. Yet a number of state legislatures have already acted on the basic recommendations of that and oth­er, similar reports. Indeed, the educa­tion reform movement has moved faster than any public policy reform in modem history. All the states have expanded their school improvement programs; nearly all have increased high school graduation requirements; most have stiffened college admission require­ments; many are deepening the content of course offerings; and many...
A Rising Tide or Steady Fiscal State?
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Rising national demands to improve public K–12 education are expected to boost financial support for schools; state education reform programs (especially those funded by tax increases) are commonly perceived to increase education funding dramatically. Analysis of changes in education funding across all 50 states during the 1980s shows that education revenues per pupil are neither increasing nor decreasing overall, but are staying constant after adjusting for en­rollment increases and inflation. While recent funding increases have halted the drop in the real level of resources per pupil that...