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New UCLA study cites heavy impact on schools

The Sacramento Bee - - January 21, 2010

January 21, 2010

New UCLA study cites heavy impact on schools


California's severe recession and its chronic budget crisis are having a double-barreled impact on the state's K-12 schools, a new report by UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access (IDEA) concludes.

While the recession increases the stress on families, especially low-income families, the budget crisis is reducing state and local spending on education, making it more difficult for schools to cope, the study - the latest in an annual series entitled the California Educational Opportunity Report.

One effect, IDEA director John Rogers said today as he released the study, is that the discrepancies between schools serving affluent students and those with high rates of poverty are increasing. The latter are more likely to receive financing from local parcel taxes and voluntary contributions while the latter not only don't receive extra money but are more likely to experience layoffs and other staff cuts.

The report - whose Internet form includes the ability to examine individual schools - was based in part on an extensive series of interviews with school principals, but also on data, including comparisons of California with other states on educational achievement and financing.

It notes that California was already near the bottom in per-pupil financing before the most recent round of state budget cuts and also fares poorly in academic achievement. "Why is California on the wrong side of this national achievement gap?," the report asks rhetorically. "One critical reason is that California is on the wrong side of a national resource gap." Rogers said that California should "grow the fiscal pie" for education.

The UCLA study is the latest in a long string of reports on California's educational dilemma and new ammunition for its perennial debate over whether the corrective emphasis should be on structural reform or financing - a debate that punctuated the Capitol's recent tussle over qualifying the state for federal "Race to the Top" funds.

The full UCLA report, entitled Educational Opportunities in Hard Times, is available here. 

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