Budget follies: round one

From the Governor’s new budget proposal:

Total 2005-06 Proposition 98 support for K-12 education will increase 6 percent over the revised 2004 Budget Act level, as adjusted for changes in local revenues, average daily attendance growth (ADA), and forecasted economic factors.

You’d almost think we were looking at an increase in funding for next year, but as Nanette Asimov, writing in the Chron, tells us,

Because the proposed increases cover only cost-of- living adjustments and new enrollment, school districts with declining enrollment — which encompass half the state’s students — won’t see much of the new money.

CUSD, as we all know by now, is one of those districts with declining enrollment.

The January budget proposal is only the first shot in the budget wars; we’re not likely to know the final outcome for another six months or more. But it’s not a promising start.

Merit Pay: Gerstner, Kevin Drum

Kevin Drum links to an article by Lou Gerstner on the merits of merit pay for teachers.

I don’t entirely buy Drum’s contention that principals don’t know enough about teachers to adequately evaluate them. Or rather, I’m convinced that, under the right circumstances (in particular a manageable number of teachers), a good principal has a very good idea of what her teachers are doing.

Of course this assumes good principals and small schools, but there are reasons enough, merit pay aside, to insist on both of these.


Even an imperfect system would be far better than the current single-salary schedule. And while we reward the best, we need to empower principals to lead, making sure they have the proper authority to hire and fire teachers. And as far as competition goes, since when is a little healthy effort to be the best at improving reading or math scores such a bad thing?

I frankly doubt that we’ll see a useful proposal from Arnold, given California’s budget constraints and his apparent intention to hold down education spending. But it could lead to a useful discussion.

BBC: Small-class pupils ‘do no better’

New British research suggests that there “is no evidence that children in smaller primary classes do better in maths or English”.

Via Sam Smith, who points out that small schools, on the other hand, are another matter entirely.

Yet California continues to fund class-size reduction to the tune of over a billion dollars per year while ignoring the benefits of smaller schools. California’s modest goals–classes of 20 students in grades K-3–may help account for its very limited success with CSR, but greater reductions (research suggests that 12-15 is a better target) would be correspondingly more expensive, as would expanding the program to higher grades.