The Ups and Down of California Education

Education in the United States

Education in the United States Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

“California will provide a world-class education for all students, from early childhood to adulthood…”

The mission of the California Department of Education begins here and continues to describe their dedication to both education and to the preparedness of students.

Currently, California is facing major issues with its education system. According to Unsustainable California: The Top 10 Issues of Facing the Golden State, unstable funding, low staff and poor student performance are the centered, broad problems with the education system. Within these general problems are more specific reasons to the decline of the California education system.

The funding for K- 12 education is about 28% of state-only funding according to Unsustainable California, and the state relies more heavily on state funding than local funding. The state of California also has an education budget report to explain how much was spent. The spending for education is referred to as “per-pupil” spending or how much is spent per student.

Per pupil spending was at $10,687 and fell about $2,000, stated by Unsustainable California’s K-12 education portion. When spending dropped to $9,892, California ranked from 25th in the national average to 38th.

Other factors play roles in the funding portion of education as well, particularly different propositions that have been passed to assist with education through budget or taxes.

Proposition 98 (1988) requires an amount of the state budget to be spent on the K-14 education system, according to Ballotpedia.

Proposition 13 (1978) was partially blamed for per pupil spending decreases in an interview done by KPBS. The purpose of proposition 13 was to lower property assessments back to the year 1975 levels and to “cap annual tax increases by 2 percent,” according to Ballotpedia.

In the KPBS interview, the proposition was connected to education spending, then addressed in a specific city. When the proposition 13 was passed, the local community could not help with education funding as adequately as before.

Lastly, proposition 30 (2012) is the temporary tax increase. According to Track Prop 30, the purpose of the temporary tax increase is to ensure that a certain amount of the education budget is not cut and to restore the health of schools. As a result, taxpayers have the ability to track money raised for the K-12 education system.

Lower staff is also big part of the education problem. It is a result of lower pupil spending in schools. When enough staff is unable to be attained, students must experience larger class sizes. Many classrooms are reaching 10 more students than recommended for classes. This leaves students with less help in the classroom and more problems obtaining the information taught in the class.

In 2014, the generalized student to teacher ratio in school districts is 25 to 1 according to NEA Research. The numbers become worse when looking at faculty of schools. Faculty or “support staff,” as NEA refers to them, include librarians, guidance counselors and administrators. These staff are also facing challenges in school with ratios reaching in the 3,000’s of students.

Poor student performance is the last issue. It is not always the fault of the student but can result from household situations, learning English as a second language, from low staff or faculty or possibly the curriculum.

“[The system is] geared more toward a typical reader and listener,” said Shannon Mullini-Yncera, mother of 4 and current college student. “There is not many other forms regularly practiced in schools.”

Shannon explained a situation involving her son, in the school setting. She said that her son learns in a more artistic, visual and kinetic manner. When in a classroom, he is often tuned out because the main form of teaching is reading from a textbook. She described him as uninterested in the material, and believes it is because of the way the material is being taught.

A situation like this may be more common than thought. In 2009 according to the Institute of Education Sciences, eighth grade students in California were averaging about 137 in science related subjects while national public averaged about 149. In comparison to fourth grade, eighth grade went up about one point.

In 2013, eighth grade students in California averaged about 276 in mathematics and 262 in reading, while the national public averaged about 284 in mathematics and 266 in reading.

The numbers are not too significant from national public averages but some do not show a great increase between the fourth and eighth grade.

The No Child Left Behind Act (2001) or the NCLB Act is the result of the concern of the “neediest children being left behind,” according to Executive Summary of the NCLB Act. The purpose of the law is to give the opportunity for children to succeed and obtain a high-qualified education by closing academic gaps in the education system.

The NCLB Act is a reforming of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965) or the ESEA.The first reform for the ESEA took place in 2002 and was given the name No Child Left Behind, according to the U.S Department of Education. In 2010 Congress received, from Obama, a Blueprint for Reform of the No Child Left Behind Act, according to the White House website. The reform brought to light the issues created from the NCLB Act and goals to resolve these issues.

The blueprint reform involves the college and career, teachers and leaders, English learners and diverse learners, a complete education and other education and student related issues.

President Obama has addressed changes he would like to see in addition to the reform of the NCLB Act. He addresses the race to the top, redesigning of high schools, receiving more teachers in classrooms and keeping the teachers that are currently in classrooms stable and in classrooms according to K-12 Education on The White House website.

Each subject addressed has a different effect within the education. The idea is that through the improvement of teaching and learning, the provisions of the NCLB Act, the using of existing resources and the funding for the teachers will bring education to a more successful level. Obama also issued the a ConnectED Initiative.


ConnectED Initiative is the equipping of teachers with the best technology and training to help students succeed in the classroom. It was announced in June 2013 and essential helps to prepare students for their future jobs and lives in state to out of the country.

According to ConnectEd Initiative on the White House Website, the goal is to have about 99 percent of American student classroom and libraries provided with the best technology within the next five years.

ConnectED Initiative is apart of the four advanced reform, key objectives that Obama addressed in bettering the economy and education system, according to the K-12 Education on The White House website.

The four objectives include:

  •      “Higher standard and better assessments that will prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace,
  •      Ambitious effort to recruit, prepare, develop and advance effective teachers and principals, especially in the classrooms where they need it the most
  •      Smarter data systems to measure student growth and success and help educators improve teaching and learning
  •      New attention and a national effort to turn around our lowest-achieving schools.”

The result of these key objectives is expected to help student’s education nationwide.With these goals in place, the issues of unstable funding, low staff and poor student performance are addressed in increments. Each issue is being addressed and handled in a way unique to the problem, resulting in a move toward a better education system and also a better economy.



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