Sacramento Schools And The Trillion Dollar Question
Sacramento Schools are the epitome of the problems and concerns held by all public schools in the state of California. Recent and ongoing debates about funding arts education, construction costs, and new initiatives play out in Sacramento Schools daily. The most recent fuel to the fire was added when a study titled Getting Down to the Facts was released: it’s an evaluation of the adequacy and efficiency of the current funding of California’s public schools. The study was conducted by a California non-profit educational think tank, Pacific Research Institute (PRI).
Given the state’s poor reputation in regards to education, most educators in Sacramento Schools weren’t surprised by the study’s conclusion that the state’s current educational funding system is dysfunctional. However, sensational reports claiming that even an investment of $1 trillion couldn’t fix the problems of California and Sacramento Schools ruffled the feathers of administrators trying to get money for their initiatives.
Dr. Vicki Murray, senior fellow in Education Studies at PRI, explained that the report did not say that the problems could not be fixed with large amounts of money, rather, “It found what research and common-sense have told us for a long time: spending more money on more of the same won’t reverse California’s race to the bottom. California’s infrastructure is so poor; it’s nearly impossible to know where education funding goes or what programs are effective. We shouldn’t spend more if we don’t know what’s working…reform must be our first priority.”
What will this mean for Sacramento Schools? It depends what politicians do with this information. Two of the big issues have been in arts education and construction costs. Currently local districts like Sacramento Schools fund 50% of monies for new building and school renovations. The state covers the rest. Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed upping the local commitment to 60%. Opponents claim this places an even greater burden on at-risk and low-income Sacramento Schools.
In the arts arena, however, the Governor made a splash with administrators in Sacramento Schools by granting the largest ever state allotment of funds for the arts in the summer of 2006. $500 million was committed to equipment for arts, music and physical education programs, while $105 was earmarked for hiring and training qualified arts teachers. Sacramento Schools rejoiced at this news because of the strong correlation between arts education and high academic achievement, especially in low-income children.
So even though educators and administrators in Sacramento Schools may agree that the educational system is dysfunctional, the lack of vision regarding the solution makes them nervous. Depending on the reforms proposed it’s likely that arts education could again lose funding (a common trend in Sacramento Schools). The report may also makes it difficult for Sacramento Schools to get the funding they want to support existing programs. And with both California and Sacramento Schools at the bottom of the educational barrel in national scores, that has everyone concerned.