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Research Paper On California Public Education

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The California State Public Education System:

Can it live up to current demands?

"All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth."


It has been said many times that children are our future. That is a scary thought considering our lack of investment as a people in that future, for without a solid base of education now the bright future we hope for may never come to fruition. This Paper will look at the current state of the Public Education System of the Sate of California. It will focus on the breakdown of the current system looking specifically at the following issues: Lack of Funding for the System, Lack of Qualified Teaching Personnel, and issues caused by Diversity in the Educational System. Through the use of primary and secondary research tools we will analyze the current state of the system and look at possible remedies to said issues.

Lack of Funding

According to the California Department of Education's Statistics overall spending for education over the last five years have shown an upward trend in spending for schools. Over the last five years spending for education has gone up by 28% (California Department of Education). It went from an average expenditure per student of $4570.00 to $6360.00 (California Department of Education). Though over the last five years spending has headed in the right direction it has not done so in a fast enough manner. The average rate of growth for the educational budget has been 8.6% (California Department of Education) a year over the last five years. This is barely above the rate of growth of enrollment of 6%(California Department of Education). We are not moving forward in fact it would seem like we are treading water. With the upcoming cuts in educational spending for the 2003-2004 school year we will actually be losing ground.

Though average expenditure per student has gone up it still is not in line with other states. As stated above the average expenditure per student is $6360.00 per year according to the most recent statistics released by the California Department of Education. To put it in perspective the top three states as far as expenditures per student are New Jersey at $10,337.00 per student, District of Columbia at $10,107.00 per student, and New York at $9,846.00 per student (National Center for Education Statistics). This level of expenditure is coming from three states whose combined GDP does not even come close to that of California, which if it were to separate from the United States would form the fifth largest economy in the world (Nystrom Desk Atlas).

Our Public School System is still plagued by lack of supplies and equipment as evidenced in our surveys where 100% of respondents stated that they felt supplies were below minimum standards to create an effective learning environment. We were given examples of students having to share textbooks. Textbooks being outdated with some being from the late 80's, not a big deal for math texts but there has been a huge increase in knowledge in Science and a significant change in the geography and history of our world which would make large sections of these older texts obsolete. Another large complaint is the lack of proper facilities. Most schools being aged and in need of serious repairs.

Lack of Qualified Teachers

We would all like to think that schools are going to educate every child and expect them to bring every child to high standards of performance. Until fairly recently it was a permissible practice to reserve the most qualified teachers for those schools serving high-achieving, affluent, college-bound students who were believed to hold the greatest promise of success. Holding school districts accountable for improving the performance of all schools and all students might well require that resources, both human and financial, be allocated according to greatest need ( This notion presents a challenge to public education. My concern would be whether or not school superintendents and other representatives work together to design fair, effective strategies to ensure that the students with the greatest needs are assigned well-qualified teachers. The state of California should analyze the enormous complexity of this issue, including the impact of teacher quality on student achievement, the evidence that teachers regularly migrate out of low-performing schools, and the potential solution that lies in offering incentives to well-qualified teachers who commit to work in struggling schools (

There has been evidence that suggests that the poorest children face the greatest educational challenges. Students who attend schools with poverty have unequal opportunities to develop literacy and other academic skills, which is very similar to our criminal justice system where the less fortunate receive substandard assistance and rulings from the bench (

High-poverty schools suffer from fewer resources, greater teacher and administrator shortages, fewer applications for vacancies, higher absenteeism among teachers and staff, and higher rates of teacher and administrator turnover. For example, the likelihood is greater that children will have difficulty learning to read if they are poor, non-white, or non-native speakers of English. In 2000, only 16 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders and only 12 percent of blacks scored at or above proficient levels of achievement in reading, compared to 40 percent of whites ( At the end of a decade of unprecedented efforts nationwide to improve public schools, roughly six out of every 10 poor and minority students still failed to reach even the basic level in reading achievement. Strategies have been proposed to close this achievement gap: smaller classes, smaller schools, standards-based reform, whole-school reform, lengthening the school day, lengthening the school year, before- and after-school programs, charter schools, and parental involvement. The most drastic strategies include privatization of public school systems, mayoral and state takeovers, and school reconstitution (

None of these strategies is likely to work without highly qualified teachers and strong, supportive school districts that can create good working conditions that will attract and retain them. I think it will be essential to create incentives that attract well-qualified teachers to select and remain in the schools that serve students with the greatest needs. There should be legislation to increase teacher pay, offer various monetary incentives to lure more teachers to California and help subsidize the cost



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