Capitol Alert: Californians like Common Core education, finance overhaul

dwalters@sacbee.comApril 23, 2014 

At right, Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento on September 3, 2013.

RENÉE C. BYER — Bee file

Two major changes in California's public education system - adoption of "Common Core" academic standards and giving extra money to school districts with large numbers of poor and/or English learner students - seem to have gained favor with the state's residents.

A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California tested the two changes now underway, along with a number of other education-related issues.

The poll found that 69 percent of adults support the Common Score approach to teaching, a system that's being adopted by a majority of the states as a way of ensuring that students leave public schools with skills in a variety of areas.

The change has been controversial, especially in other states, with those on the political right complaining that it will lead to federal control of school curricula. The concept was promoted by a bipartisan coalition of governors to replace the state-by-state determinations of what should be taught, how instruction should be given and how academic progress should be assessed.

The PPIC survey found that support was over 50 percent among all political subgroups but Democratic support was highest at 72 percent, while that among Republicans was 60 percent and among independents, 61 percent.

The change in school financing was championed by Gov. Jerry Brown on the theory that poor students and those not fluent in English need special attention to close what educators have called the "achievement gap."

The state Board of Education is finalizing regulations on how the Local Control Funding Formula is to be implemented, and there has been some criticism of the regulations that they leave too much discretion in the hands of local school officials. But Brown, citing the principle of "subsidiarity," has endorsed local discretion.

The PPIC poll found that 53 percent of all adults, and 57 percent of parents of public school students, are confident that the money will be spent wisely, and higher numbers, 68 percent and 71 percent respectively, believe the extra money will improve academic performance by the targeted kids.

The poll also tested support for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's push for universal pre-kindergarten, which would cost about $1 billion a year when fully implemented, and, like other polls, found very strong support for the concept - 73 percent among all adults and 80 percent among students' parents.

About 40 percent of adults surveyed were aware that California ranks below average on per-pupil school spending and 46 know that it's also below average in academic test scores.

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