By Peter Schrag
Listening to even the best people in California’s school reform discussions doesn’t leave much clarity about the direction our money-starved education system school go or much confidence that things will get perceptibly better any time soon.
Many of those good people know what’s needed. It’s just that they don’t all know the same thing, or don’t know it at the same time. That much at least was apparent once again at last Wednesday’s Sacramento forum on school finance sponsored by PPIC, the Public Policy Institute of California.
What they agreed on was that the fixes of the last thirty or forty years – what state School Board Michael Kirst called “the historical accretion” of programs – wasn’t working. It’s become, someone said, “the Winchester Mystery House” of school finance, rooms added willy-nilly to solve one or another problem.
Neither the policy makers nor the reformers are entirely – or maybe even mostly – to blame. In a state that now ranks in the bottom ten nationwide in school spending, and among the lowest in the ratio of teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians per pupil there’s a long list of suspects. When a questioner at the PPIC forum asked what we mostly needed, someone stage-whispered, “more, more, more.”