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California’s Future: K-12 Education

Laura Hill, Niu Gao, Paul Warren | January 2018


California educates more than 6 million children in its K–12 public schools. More than half of these students are econom­ically disadvantaged. Almost a quarter are English Learners (ELs), compared with fewer than one in ten nationwide. In order to better serve its student population, the state has enacted several reforms in recent years—and state funding for K–12 education has increased for six consecutive years. In 2010, California adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math and English, and students began taking new standards-aligned tests—the Smarter Balanced assess­ments—in 2015. In addition, the state has mostly finished implementing the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The LCFF was enacted in 2013 to simplify school finance, increase funding for high-need (low-income, EL, and foster youth) students, and revamp school accountability.

With a new governor on the horizon, there are questions about how K–12 education will evolve. The state could continue giving school districts broad flexibility in using state funds to meet local needs and priorities, or it could make targeted spending programs common once more. For instance, the new governor will contemplate refinements or additions to the LCFF to help districts shrink the achievement gap in California. There are also looming questions about how the Trump administration’s immigration policies will impact the school environment, as well as the degree of latitude states will have in implementing the new federal education act, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

This publication is part of a briefing kit that highlights our state’s most pressing long-term policy challenges in 11 key areas:

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the PPIC Corporate Circle and the PPIC Donor Circle.

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