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How Newsom would close the achievement gap in California schools

Students participate in a physical education class at Fairmeadow Elementary School in Palo Alto on March 16, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his revised state budget last month, he boasted about increasing public school spending to $128.3 billion or nearly $23,000 per pupil with a goal of "completely reimagining the education system."

What does that mean?

Newsom envisions universal access to pre-kindergarten care and education and transforming neighborhood schools into "community schools" that "partner with education, county, and nonprofit entities to provide integrated health, mental health, and social services alongside high-quality, supportive instruction, with a strong focus on community, family, and student engagement."

The budget describes the "California for All Kids" plan as "a whole-child support framework designed to target inequities in educational outcomes among students from different demographic backgrounds, and empower parents and families with more options and more services."

Its promise of integrated services mirrors another Newsom program to overhaul Medi-Cal, the state's system of health care for the poor that serves a third of the state's population. The new approach, dubbed "CalAIM," would "move the whole person care approach that integrates health care and other social determinants of health, to a statewide level with a clear focus on improving health and reducing health disparities and inequities, including improving and expanding behavioral health care."

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Medi-Cal providers would not only be responsible for medical services but helping clients with other aspects of their lives, such as housing and income support.

Universal pre-kindergarten, community schools and CalAIM, if fully implemented as imagined, would move California toward more comprehensive — or perhaps intrusive — involvement in the lives of the roughly 14 million Californians who live in poverty or near-poverty with the goal of improving their lives and perhaps breaking the cycle of poverty. The interventionist approach also extends to another Newsom initiative called "care courts" that would compel mentally ill homeless people to undergo treatment.

They are experiments in social engineering that conceptually mimic Western Europe's tradition of cradle-to-grave services.

The new vision's education component might be the most difficult to implement because of schools' historic focus on classroom instruction and the money to deliver it. Getting kids through 12 years of schooling is difficult enough, educators might say, without saddling them with responsibility for their families.

However, it's unmistakably clear that California's schools are plagued with a stubborn "achievement gap" separating poor and English-learner students from their more privileged peers, one that surely widened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A decade ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown persuaded the Legislature to take a different approach by reforming the school finance system to give more money to school systems with large numbers of students at risk of academic failure.

Newsom's new budget builds on the concept by requiring local schools systems, beginning next year "to offer expanded learning opportunities to all low-income students, English language learners, and youth in foster care…"

So, one might wonder, what would it really take for the 60% of students who fall into those "high needs" categories to catch up with the 40% who flourish in the public schools?

Would integrating education with family-oriented social and health services do the trick? Or would it take billions more dollars on top of the budget's $128.3 billion?

The Public Policy Institute of California recently released a report on that question, summarizing the many academic studies of the relationship between money and educational achievement. Generally, it concluded, more spending does have positive educational impacts, but closing California's achievement gap could cost as much as $10,000 more per pupil each year.

That would boost current spending by nearly 50% and cost up to $60 billion a year, probably a politically impossible amount.

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Email Dan Walters at [email protected]

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics. Read more state news from CalMatters here.

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How Newsom would close the achievement gap in California schools

by Dan Walters / CalMatters

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 1, 2022, 12:51 pm

When Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his revised state budget last month, he boasted about increasing public school spending to $128.3 billion or nearly $23,000 per pupil with a goal of "completely reimagining the education system."

What does that mean?

Newsom envisions universal access to pre-kindergarten care and education and transforming neighborhood schools into "community schools" that "partner with education, county, and nonprofit entities to provide integrated health, mental health, and social services alongside high-quality, supportive instruction, with a strong focus on community, family, and student engagement."

The budget describes the "California for All Kids" plan as "a whole-child support framework designed to target inequities in educational outcomes among students from different demographic backgrounds, and empower parents and families with more options and more services."

Its promise of integrated services mirrors another Newsom program to overhaul Medi-Cal, the state's system of health care for the poor that serves a third of the state's population. The new approach, dubbed "CalAIM," would "move the whole person care approach that integrates health care and other social determinants of health, to a statewide level with a clear focus on improving health and reducing health disparities and inequities, including improving and expanding behavioral health care."

Medi-Cal providers would not only be responsible for medical services but helping clients with other aspects of their lives, such as housing and income support.

Universal pre-kindergarten, community schools and CalAIM, if fully implemented as imagined, would move California toward more comprehensive — or perhaps intrusive — involvement in the lives of the roughly 14 million Californians who live in poverty or near-poverty with the goal of improving their lives and perhaps breaking the cycle of poverty. The interventionist approach also extends to another Newsom initiative called "care courts" that would compel mentally ill homeless people to undergo treatment.

They are experiments in social engineering that conceptually mimic Western Europe's tradition of cradle-to-grave services.

The new vision's education component might be the most difficult to implement because of schools' historic focus on classroom instruction and the money to deliver it. Getting kids through 12 years of schooling is difficult enough, educators might say, without saddling them with responsibility for their families.

However, it's unmistakably clear that California's schools are plagued with a stubborn "achievement gap" separating poor and English-learner students from their more privileged peers, one that surely widened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A decade ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown persuaded the Legislature to take a different approach by reforming the school finance system to give more money to school systems with large numbers of students at risk of academic failure.

Newsom's new budget builds on the concept by requiring local schools systems, beginning next year "to offer expanded learning opportunities to all low-income students, English language learners, and youth in foster care…"

So, one might wonder, what would it really take for the 60% of students who fall into those "high needs" categories to catch up with the 40% who flourish in the public schools?

Would integrating education with family-oriented social and health services do the trick? Or would it take billions more dollars on top of the budget's $128.3 billion?

The Public Policy Institute of California recently released a report on that question, summarizing the many academic studies of the relationship between money and educational achievement. Generally, it concluded, more spending does have positive educational impacts, but closing California's achievement gap could cost as much as $10,000 more per pupil each year.

That would boost current spending by nearly 50% and cost up to $60 billion a year, probably a politically impossible amount.

Email Dan Walters at [email protected]

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics.

Comments

Dan Waylonis
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Jun 2, 2022 at 12:18 am
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Jun 2, 2022 at 12:18 am

Equal opportunity? Absolutely and a laudable goal.
Equal outcome? No way.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jun 2, 2022 at 8:49 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jun 2, 2022 at 8:49 am

MVWSD elementary schools: Poor use of existing computer resources for K-4th grade poor kids. = [none in summer]. Gov's program can't work in this environment.

Does it make sense: when it is known these kids (and their families) lack consistent internet and easy-to-use computers, to take away the poor kids Chromebooks for the Summer? It does not. But that is what is happening in Mountain View. I just heard a Principal explain at an ELAC that 'libraries' etc. are a good source of connection to the DISTRICT PROVIDED internet resources. Yeah - all wealthy parents - just try That!

When a wealthy district like MVWSD, with tens of millions in operational Reserves, can't 'let' poor kids keep their Chromebooks over the Summer, the governor's program surely can't work. (Clearly program monitoring still show poor & less educated families 'need individual help')


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Jun 3, 2022 at 2:51 am
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Jun 3, 2022 at 2:51 am

Since 2010, the child population of the state has been on a slow march down. Within about 5 more years, the under 18 population will have decreased by about 20%. The way this works out is that with no per pupil spend increase beyond inflation, effectively there is a 20% funding savings. To increase spending by 50%, a net increase of 20% to the educational budget is all that is required. So it really is within reach.


TomR
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Jun 4, 2022 at 8:05 am
TomR, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Jun 4, 2022 at 8:05 am

There are so many broken things wrong in this state, it is no surprise many families cannot raise children here and choose to leave:

- Sky high childcare costs, and not enough afterschool availability for families whose parents work till 5.
- No buses for kids! Ironically the plan is hundreds of gas-emitting cars for public school drop-off every morning, burdening working families, while giving empty political lip service about the environment.
- A perverse delay of crucial middle school and high school curriculum subjects, in order to 'level the achievement gap' among students. Idiocy.
- Removing merit based admissions at some of the best public high schools in the state. Removing the ACT/SAT, previously one of the best ways for poor kids to show aptitude for college. Now college admissions is even more skewed for wealthy families, towards (expensive) extracurricular activities, essays, and grade-inflated private high school GPA's.
- All the GreatSchools scores are broken and they PUNISH student diversity! Any school where students of different races perform differently on tests in math/english is automatically penalized heavily in its 'equity' score. Any homogeneously white school gets extremely high ratings because their equity score is thrown out! This impacts home values and home-seekers, perversely penalizing families in diverse communities and rewarding white flight. Just pure idiocy and lack of common sense from GreatSchools (a CA company).
-I have little confidence Newsom's budget will be spent well. Will likely be misused, with a lot of waste, and then engender painful cuts in a couple years since these administrators all seem terrible at math.


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