What can Gov.-Elect Newsom do for Schools?

Suggestions for the New Governor

California Schools magazine asked some of California’s education thought leaders how Gov. Newsom can best support public schools. Here are their answers:

Vernon M. Billy

CEO & Executive Director, California School Boards Association

“Gov. Newsom has an opportunity to shape public education for decades by supporting efforts to fully and fairly fund preK-12 education and encourage alignment between the preK-12, community college, and university systems. If he accomplishes both of those goals, he will leave a generational legacy that restores the glory of California schools and extends the state’s prosperity well into the future.”

More immediately, Gov. Newsom can support students and respect the will of the voters by releasing $7 billion in critical funding to update aging K-12 facilities, build new schools and provide funding for Career Technical Education facilities. In November 2016, the electorate overwhelmingly approved Proposition 51 to provide $9 billion for the renovation, modernization and construction of school facilities. More than two years later, less than 20 percent of the promised money has been allocated to school districts and county offices of education, leaving them unable to address their pressing facility needs. The new Governor can secure an easy win for students and for the democratic process by making these funds available so schools can provide safe, welcoming and stimulating environments where 21st century learning can take place.

Delaine Eastin

Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction

“The Governor has left him a balanced budget which is important. LCFF is a step in the right direction. We’re better off than we were when [Brown] first entered office, but still terribly underinvested and living in the most expensive state in the U.S. with the highest number of poor students and English learners. Gavin has to get more money into the schools. It’s all well and good to say money isn’t everything. Money is necessary, it’s not sufficient. We’re dead last in nurses, librarians and counselors. I want [students] to be scientists and engineers and air traffic controllers, but it’s also important that [staff] have time to give them the passionate support they need to succeed.”

Carrie Hahnel

Interim Co-Executive Director of The Education Trust-West

“In terms of how we distribute dollars, our education finance system is no longer a fixer upper, though it could use some remodeling in some areas. The next Governor will need to build upon Gov. Brown’s legacy here, turning from the question of funding equity and looking directly at the issue of funding adequacy. Our state’s K-12 schools educate one out of every 10 students in the entire country — we are too big to fail. The next Governor will need to make sure we regain our stronghold as an education state, both in funding levels, but also in teacher preparation and in the data and support systems to accelerate school improvement. Every year without a longitudinal data system means a lost opportunity to understand how well our college and career preparation efforts are working. Every budget cycle without a serious conversation about fiscal adequacy leaves state leaders rearranging the pieces on an underfunded chess game with serious consequences.”

Jack O’Connell

Partner at Capitol Advisors Group and Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction

“I’m hopeful that Governor Newsom will increase the LCFF growth targets. It’s nice that they’re restored to the 08-09 calculations with inflation, but now we need to make a greater investment to just not be in the forties of all states. Gov. Newsom will benefit from Gov. Brown building up the reserves. If the economy does slow down, we have a record number of reserves to tap into for the state to help soften the economic blow, so I think Gov. Newsom will benefit from some of Brown’s policy and vision.”

Tom Torlakson

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

“I urge the next governor to work closely with educators, legislators, and the public to boost funding for schools, refine our new system of funding, evaluation and support, continue working to eliminate the achievement gap, and update our Charter School law.”

Samantha Dobbins Tran

Senior Managing Director, Education Policy, Children Now

“Moving forward, the state must be more vigilant about identifying inequities, providing support to educators and investing in students. Future policymakers will have the opportunity to institute a PreK-to-workforce data infrastructure that could provide real time, actionable information to educators and essential information on resources, opportunities, and student outcomes to stakeholders in order to support student success.

In addition, while a foundation has been laid with an emerging System of Support, more needs to be done to link and expand existing initiatives in order build the capacity of educators, schools and districts to meet the needs of California’s diverse student population. Also, policymakers need to look past a mechanistic state calculation of school funding to actually ensure that our schools have the staffing levels and funding needed to address inequities and provide every student with the opportunity to graduate ready for college, career and civic life.

Finally, California’s approach to providing early learning opportunities for children birth to age 5 has remained convoluted, inaccessible, and dramatically under-resourced for decades, including under the Brown Administration. Yet, we know from decades of research that it is during these critical years that the architecture of the brain is set with lasting implications and that high-quality early childhood programs and interventions can make dramatic near- and long-term improvements in education, health and other key outcomes for a child. And in California — where we have among the largest school readiness gaps in the nation and those gaps persist throughout K-12 and well in to adulthood — this type of early intervention and support is desperately needed. Similar to what Gov. Brown accomplished with LCFF, the next Governor and Legislature will have the opportunity to put California on the right track for our youngest learners by creating a coherent system that invests in quality and expands access to early learning opportunities, especially for the state’s most vulnerable children.