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Annotating the News: Local Control, Democratic Coalition, and Charters

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California's dramatic re-write of school funding laws has only just begun its multi-year phase-in.  But already advocacy organizations are nibbling at the flexibility inherent in shifting dozens of "categorical" programs into lump-sum budgets for school boards and superintendents to divvy up.  Advocates for low-income, English Learner, and foster care students want assurances that funds will be spent on those students.  They have rallied a quarter of the legislature to change funding rules, and they have broadened their efforts to focus on  superintendents and school boards, as in Los Angeles this week.

As Kerchner wrote, Gov. Jerry Brown and Democrats in the state legislature have taken an approach to education policy that contrasts sharply with national trends, even in Democratic strongholds around the country.  But several non-education controversies in California threaten to tear that exceptional coalition apart: a recent effort in the legislature to restore affirmative action, the governor's high-speed rail dream, the drought, and corruption prosecutions of several Democratic State Senators.

California has more charter schools than any state.  Researchers at CREDO, a center based in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University have worked hard to establish themselves as credible evaluators of charter schools, and past reports have been critical of their performance.  A March CREDO report painted a rosier picture of charter school performance in Los Angeles, and a second report found similar results statewide.  Of course, controversy ensued: charter advocates argue that they've turned the corner, while skeptics urge us to read the fine print.

By CTK and David Menefee-Libey

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