Monthly Archives: November 2010

January 21st Seminar: Experiments in Deregulating School Finance

Bruce Fuller, Professor of Education, University of California, Berkeley

Since the 1980s, the governor and legislature have tried to balance statewide educational priorities against the desire for local flexibility, frequently expanding targeted categorical aid programs. Some argue that this approach to school finance undermines local educators’ efforts to devise coherent instructional initiatives and respond to accountability pressures. In the midst of the ongoing budget crisis, the legislature suspended requirements attached to approximately 40 “Tier 3” categorical aid programs. This represents a massive experiment in deregulating school finance, with districts potentially making new choices about how to spend $4.5 billion in 2009-10 alone. The RAND Corporation, in collaboration with the University of California and San Diego State University, is conducting a 2-year study that explores district and school leader responses to the Tier 3 initiative and federal stimulus dollars. How are districts making use of this fiscal flexibility? What forces are shaping resource allocation decisions? The study team will discuss qualitative data collected at 10 districts during the spring of 2010. Initial findings suggest that after one year, the Tier 3 flexibility is playing a critical role in helping districts to backfill budget gaps as the state crisis continues. At the same time, there is evidence that some district leaders are actively reworking existing spending patterns to better align with local educational needs and make strategic spending choice.

Policy Report: Costs of California Multiple Pathway Programs

There is widespread agreement that many of California’s high schools are doing a poor job of preparing their students for college and careers.  The James Irvine Foundation is sponsoring a major initiative to develop “Multiple Pathways” –– now called the Linked Learning approach –– as a strategy for improving the performance of California high schools.  To inform this effort, the Foundation asked PACE to gather evidence on the cost of linked learning programs.  This report by Ace Parsi, University of California, Berkeley, David N. Plank, Policy Analysis for California Education and David Stern, University of California, Berkeley presents the results.

How much does a good high school education cost?  This is a hard question to answer, because we do not know whether traditional high schools are using their resources in the best possible ways.  We know how much school districts spend on their high schools to achieve their current level of performance, but we do not know to what extent achieving better results could be accomplished by using current resources better or whether improved performance would require additional resources.  This makes judgments about whether reform strategies like Linked Learning cost more than, less than, or the same as traditional high school programs difficult, because we do not have a clear baseline against which to compare costs.

Costs of California Multiple Pathways Programs