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California’s Future: K-12 Education


California educates more than 6 million children in its K–12 public schools. More than half of these students are economically disadvantaged. About one in five are English Learners (ELs), compared with one in ten nationwide. In 2013, the state created the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to simplify school funding and significantly increase funding for high-need students (those who are low-income, EL, homeless, and foster youth). California’s school system has also adopted new educational standards in math, English, and science, and the state has revamped its assessment system accordingly.

Given the pivotal role of education in California’s future, improving the academic outcomes of high-need students remains the central challenge facing California’s schools. State test scores have seen modest improvements over the past five years, but high-need students still score at much lower levels than other students do. The LCFF provides additional funding for districts with large numbers of high-need students, with the goal of helping these students succeed.

Expanding preschool is one strategy for boosting long-term student outcomes. Governor Newsom is developing a multiyear early childhood education plan that includes enrolling more low-income children in high-quality preschools. Policymakers are also exploring fiscal, governance, and program reforms that improve outcomes for disabled students. And, although school funding has risen in recent years, it remains a challenge—in part because districts are facing increased costs. In November, voters may decide the fate of a ballot measure that would increase K–12 funding.

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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