California launched what is billed as the most extensive study ever conducted of its public education system Thursday - a yearlong, $2.6 million foundation-funded venture involving 23 separate projects by some of the state's top education researchers.
The bipartisan project had been requested by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Committee on Educational Excellence, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and Democratic legislative leadership - Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, among others.
I predict the following findings:
1. California isn't spending enough money on education; currently it spends a full 50% of the state budget on education, but that isn't enough.
2. Spending should be increased by at least 40%.
3. Class sizes are too large.
4. Bilingual education should be returned to its former glory.
5. Merit pay will not be recommended at all, except perhaps as a way to get more experienced teachers to teach in low performing schools.
A key portion of the study will take a different tack, analyzing how much money is needed to provide a quality education for each student - not necessarily how much the state can afford.
"It's a very loaded question," Perata said. "Because implicit in the question is that once the answer is there, once it's supported by data, then we have to decide what we will do about it."
Collectively, the 23 reviews will target public education finance, governance and dozens of specific questions, including how money could be spent more effectively to improve student achievement and what barriers exist to placing top teachers in low-performing schools.
The left-leaning newspaper certainly saved the tasty part for the last paragraphs, though.
Jim Lanich, president of California Business for Education Excellence, supported by the California Chamber of Commerce, said a comprehensive and nonpartisan study could be valuable. But the list of researchers involved is "pretty left leaning," he said.
"It would be tragic, for the sake of our kids, if it was driven with an outcome of money as opposed to improving academic achievement," Lanich said.
Yes it would, but I wouldn't be surprised at that result. I hope I'll be pleasantly surprised.