What’s the biggest enterprise in California? Hint: It’s not Apple, Disney, Kaiser or another corporation. It’s the state’s public education system.
California’s K-12 public education system is a state-operated enterprise with 300,000 employees and $87 billion of revenues.
Government-funded programs fall into two principal categories. One is the “service provider” category in which government funds services provided by government employees (e.g., the Veterans Administration). The second is the “voucher” category in which government funds services provided by others (e.g., Medicare). California’s K-12 public education system falls into the first category. No other California enterprise has as many in-state employees or as much in-state revenue.
All eyes are on the national election but state contests matter more to public education.
The federal government plays a small role in K-12 education. States spend ten times more and write education codes. In California, the K-12 public education system is governed by the state’s governor and legislature. They determine teacher dismissal and tenure rules, charter school limits, the allocation of pension costs, and much more.
California’s public school students need world-class educations.
There’s a big educational divide in America. Children of the rich or well-connected often have K-12 options not available to the masses, a big advantage in a hyper-competitive world in which world-class educations are essential for success. Closing the divide requires serious improvements to public education. But California’s K-12 system is headed in the wrong direction. Poor and minority students in California perform worse than poor and minority students in Texas and the state just elected to drain billions of dollars from classrooms in order to double spending on pensions. Much better governance is required.
November’s contests for the California Legislature will be among the most consequential ever for the state’s education system.
Because of a transition to new term limits, after this year California is not scheduled to have any open seats for the State Assembly until 2024. As a result, governance of California’s schools (and more) will be affected more than usual by this year’s elections. If you want world-class educations for California’s six million public school students, you should focus on electing exceptional candidates to state offices this year.
Pacs and plutocrats get most of the press attention but when it comes to elections for the California Legislature, you can make a big difference.
Individuals can make a big difference in elections to California’s Legislature, as explained here. Organized resources are also available. For example, Govern For California has assembled a network of contributors to exceptional candidates for state offices. We study relevant races and viable candidates, make recommendations, gather and remit contributions, and monitor legislative actions. Assisted or otherwise, 2016 is the year to act.