Presentation by Jeff Camp at "Repairing California: Time for a California Constitutional August 11th 2009


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Jeff Camp's presentation from the August 11th event "Repairing California: Time for a Constitutional Convention" hosted by Repair California, Bay Area Council and Full Circle Fund. Jeff Camp is the Chair of Full Circle Fund's Education Circle, sits of the California Governor's Committee on Excellence in Education, and is the other of Full Circle Fund's Education Impact Guide.

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  • Jeff Camp is a Bay Area native, an alumnus of Harvard, worked 12 years at Microsoft and served three years on the California Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence.
  • Jeff is also the author of Full Circle Fund’s Education Impact Guide, a summary of California education issues that has won acclaim from education leaders from academia to practitioners to teacher union leadership. As chair of the Education Impact Circle, Jeff oversees the work of about 50 of Full Circle Fund members who support innovation in education in order to improve educational results.
  • The US Constitution is a remarkable document.
  • In about 4,500 words – four pages like this – the United States Constitution established basic rules and principles that have changed the course of history stood the test of time. Since the Bill of Rights was added, the US Constitution has been amended just 17 times.
  • California’s Constitution is not like the US Constitution. It consists of more than 75,000 words – the equivalent of 68 pages like this. It has been amended or revised more than 500 times. It goes far beyond establishing rules and principles.
  • I mention these things to draw an important contrast. The US Constitution deserves reverence. California’s constitution deserves thoughtful repair. There is a mechanism to call for such a rewrite -- a Constitutional Convention.
  • Most states have had multiple versions of their constitution. Many states call a Constitutional Convention as a matter of course every 10 or 20 years to consider constitutional questions in full context. California Constitution 1.0 was written in 1850. Version 2.0 was created through a conventional convention in 1879. We are more than due for an upgrade. I chose this graphic to establish the theme of my remarks: education. There are many challenges and issues in California that require constitutional solutions. You’ll hear about different topics today from various speakers. I will use my time today to highlight some of the problems that constitution 2.0 has produced for educating children and to suggest a different approach that I would hope a constitutional convention would consider to address a core shortcoming.
  • Education matters. When kids get an education, they have a life of options. They grow up participating fully in America. They build skills that ensure their future. They earn income to support themselves, their families, and their community. Lack of education, by contrast, correlates with poverty, hardships, ill health, and behaviors that cost all of us. These graphs and others will be made available online after this event. This one shows that educational attainment correlates very strongly with both income and unemployment. So education not only matters, it pays.
  • To thrive, California’s kids have to do better than keep up. All over the world, educational achievement is growing rapidly. Unfortunately, California’s kids are behind.
  • The Nation’s Report Card is our best way to compare students’ knowledge and skills across America. It’s administered in fourth and 8 th grade, and shows a range of achievement among the states. To pick a happy example, Massachusetts kids average about a year and a half ahead.
  • In California, students score about a year behind. Now, some people look at this sort of aggregated statistic and think that it is a trick of demographics. After all, California has more than an average share of its students in poverty.
  • Indeed, students in poverty tend to score about a year behind the norm for their state. Students not in poverty tend to score more than a year ahead. Again, the height of each bar shows the range in scores among the states, with some state setting the top of the bar…
  • And California helping drag the bar downward. California does the worst job in America of providing education to poor kids. It also lags in educating kids who aren’t in poverty. Either way, California’s students are behind.
  • This isn’t just about income, either. Across every segment, California has lagged the nation in these results. We cannot blame demographics for California’s poor performance. Our schools have a long way to go for everybody. It’s a systemic problem.
  • Why is California lagging in these critical results? A penny for your thoughts… There’s no simple answer, but one reason for California’s poor school results is almost certainly money. For the last 30 years, California’s constitution has gradually removed resources from the schools.
  • This underfunding puts California students at a huge disadvantage. Our students have fewer adults involved in their preparation for life. Fewer teachers, counselors, librarians, principals and vice principals.
  • It wasn’t always this way. Over three decades, California’s total investment in K-12 education as a percentage of the state economy has dropped quite dramatically.
  • Why does today’s California commit fewer real resources to education than it used to, and fewer than other states do today? The answer brings us back to the constitution, and why it’s so important to give a constitutional convention the opportunity to put us onto a better path for tomorrow’s kids.
  • One frequently mentioned reason for California’s dysfunction in balancing budgets, including education budgets, is its non-democratic treatment of budget votes. Almost everything in a democratic system is subject to a democratic majority vote. In California and two other states, budgets must be passed by a 2/3 vote. You can think of it as just like a democracy except that in this system, votes don’t count equally. This provision was amended into the state constitution in the 1930s. This is only part of the story, and for education it is arguably not the most important part.
  • The far bigger story of the accidental constitutional remake of schools over the last 30 years is this: communities lost power. You’ve heard about the golden rule, right? Whoever has the gold makes the rules. Today, local property taxes play no role in determining the level of funding for a community’s schools except in a handful of “basic aid” districts. Most people are surprised to learn this.
  • Here’s how it happened. In California’s education system up through the 1960s -- before Serrano v Priest and before Proposition 13 -- communities set local property taxes to pay for local schools for their local kids. This worked great for wealthy communities and horribly for low-wealth communities.
  • The Serrano v Priest case was filed in 1968 to challenge this practice on the basis of the equal protection clause of the 14 th amendment. At any given level of tax, low-wealth communities could raise less resources for schools than high-wealth communities. This led to what we have today: the state collects taxes to pay for the schools. The center of power is in Sacramento. And though funds are more equally allocated, there is less in total to work with. The system was equalized downward.
  • It also became much more volatile. California education has relied heavily on the California general fund, which has been very prone to unpredictable boom and bust cycles.
  • After 25 years of watching California’s investment in education fail, we now know that the political will to educate kids is stronger at the local level than at the state level. For California’s children to have the benefit of schools with the resources necessary to do the job, we must change the constitution in a way that helps re-connect communities with the schools that serve them. The golden rule is central to this principle. California 3.0 must re-establish the expectation that communities will play an important role in the funding of their local schools. It makes sense, it is a common practice among states, and it is a return to past practices when California’s schools stood tall among the states.
  • It also presents a challenge. In the 1970s, California’s courts made it clear that it was unacceptable to allow differences in local wealth to create huge disparities in funding power for education. A new constitutional deal that empowers local communities to raise money for their schools, for example through parcel taxes or some form of re-establishment of local property taxes, must not fail to solve the underlying problem of how to help lower-wealth communities as well as asset-rich ones.
  • There are ways to do this. For example, the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence suggested in its report a plan to empower communities, whether "rich" or "poor," to tax themselves locally for the benefit of their local schools, with all the money raised remaining local. (This is the only way that local taxes pass.) Simultaneously, commit a state-level revenue source to create a state matching fund. This fund would augment local revenues raised in low-wealth districts to achieve equity in local revenue-generation power. Matching funds work, they are easy to explain, and they would address the concerns of fairness that will otherwise foil local funding efforts.
  • There may be other solutions. The main point is to re-empower communities to support their schools. When school districts and teacher unions together turn to their community to ask for local financial support, it creates conditions for communication that are too often absent in zero-sum contract negotiations. With so much of the money in school systems driven by automatic formulas and Sacramento issues, encouraging this kind of interaction is of real value. California has gone without real community engagement and empowerment in education for too long. It is time to do something about it.
  • Education is just one of a list of things that need thoughtful reinvention in this state. When you think Constitutional Convention, tell your friends (especially teachers, principals, parents) that your community needs constitutional change, and that their vocal support is needed. I hope you will join the ranks of active supporters today.
  • Presentation by Jeff Camp at "Repairing California: Time for a California Constitutional August 11th 2009

    1. 1. Repairing California Education Jeff Camp August 11, 2009
    2. 5. Different USA California 4,500 words 75,000 words amended 17 times amended 500+ times
    3. 6. Different USA California 4,500 words 75,000 words amended 17 times amended 500+ times Revere it Repair it!
    4. 7. California 3.0 Time for a Constitutional Convention
    5. 8. Education Matters
    6. 9. Confronting the Facts
    7. 10. Years Ahead Years Behind National Average Statewide Scores All Students Source: 2007 NAEP scores. Variance from average of 4 th and 8 th grade reading and math scale scores, divided by ten. Massachusetts
    8. 11. Years Ahead Years Behind National Average Statewide Scores All Students Massachusetts California kids are a year behind
    9. 12. Years Ahead Years Behind Poverty All Students In Poverty Black Latino Not in Poverty Asian White National Average for students in poverty National Average for students not in poverty
    10. 13. Years Ahead Years Behind Poverty All Students In Poverty Black Latino Not in Poverty Asian White California kids are behind
    11. 14. Years Ahead Years Behind California Kids Are Behind All Students In Poverty Black Latino Not in Poverty Asian White
    12. 15. Why?
    13. 16. Most high-wage states
    14. 17. Spend a lot per student…
    15. 18. Most states follow this pattern
    16. 19. But California is about 30% below the norm.
    17. 20. California: Less of Everything
    18. 21. It Wasn’t Always This Way 2009-10 (est)
    19. 22. Why?
    20. 23. State 2/3 “ Yes” and “No” votes don’t count equally.
    21. 24. Golden Rule
    22. 25. 1965 <ul><li>Communities set local property taxes to pay for local schools </li></ul><ul><li>Required local commitment. </li></ul><ul><li>Very unequal funding based on existing patterns of wealth </li></ul>
    23. 26. 1965 vs. Today <ul><li>Communities set local property taxes to pay for local schools </li></ul><ul><li>Required local commitment. </li></ul><ul><li>Very unequal funding based on existing patterns of wealth </li></ul><ul><li>The state levies taxes and allocates funds for schools. </li></ul><ul><li>Requires Sacramento support, not local. </li></ul><ul><li>More equally allocated, but less funding overall. </li></ul>
    24. 27. Boom and Bust
    25. 28. Time to Re-connect Schools and Communities
    26. 29. What About Equity?
    27. 30. One Solution: Matching Funds
    28. 31. Empowerment
    29. 32. California 3.0 Time for a Constitutional Convention