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The education system in the United States of America has gone through different eras of reforms that have transformed the whole approach to education and other school based programs. In line with this, these reforms were made with the aim of bettering the school or rather the education system in different States in the American society. Following this point, one of the States that have seen various reforms in its educational programs is the State of California. In reference to Carroll (2005), these reforms began way back in the 20th century and have continued to the present (p.4). Among the reforms in the educational system in California include school finance reforms.
As it was illustrated by Carroll (2005) in the RAND report, the school based reforms in terms of finances began in 1971 after the Constitutionality of California was challenged in the Serrano v. Priest case (p.4). It was argued that the equal protection act clause of the Fourteen Amendments was violated when disparities in school spending were exhibited in the education system of California, whereby there were large differences in spending per pupil due to the differences in their value. Among the first reforms that came into being after the 1971 decision on the Serrano v. Priest case was a change in the educational programs whereby every district under the State of California controlled the amount of property tax that was paid to the State whereby the tax requirements of California were controlled under the State level. This therefore gave autonomy to the State to control educational system within its boundaries rather than leaving this responsibility to individual districts under its jurisdiction. This was an important step since most the funding of schools was mainly done from tax that was received from properties in this State.
There are various factors that have influenced reforms in the school finances in the State of California. To begin with, numerous court decisions in the last 30 years have altered completely the course that has been taken by the education system in this State. This began with the decisions that were made in the Serrano v. Priest case. Similarly, the public vote or rather the influence of the citizens of the United States living in the State of California has also contributed enormously to the laying down of critical reforms that were needed in this State’s educational system. This has been done through public vote and through their opinion polls (Berry & Wysong, 2010).
There are various problems that were identified by the RAND report that required proper solutions if at all the education system in California was to be sustained. To begin with, it was realized that there were disparities in terms of school spending per pupil with the districts that were termed as less prosperous spending less as compared to their rich counterparts. This disparity in spending was found to create a disadvantage to schools that emanated from low income districts (Carroll, 2005, p.4). On the other hand, after the formulation and enactment of laws to regulate the amount of money spend on schools in every district to a point of equalization, it was realized that there was an increase in the number of students per class. This was as a result of the fact that parents spend less on school as they lacked an incentive to spend more on schools.
There are certain trends that were observed in California in regard to funding of education. In line with this, it was observed that whereas other States reported an increase in State funding of education, the State of California reported a substantial decrease in the amount of money that was spend per pupil. Whereas this was attributed to economic downturn in the American economy, it must also be realized that the policies that had been formulated by this State worked more on putting a ceiling on the overall spending on education. In other words, instead of forming a floor, they became a ceiling to spending within the boundaries of California (Kirst, 2007, p.2).
High levels of spending instability were some of the trends that were observed in California. These resulted from the fact that whereas the income that was meant to be used on education was predicted to be relatively stable, it was realized that this income varied from one year to the next. Therefore, this affected the implementation of different funding policies that had not expected financial swings or rather an unstable financial environment.
The other issue that concerns finance in the Californian school finance reforms regards the building and modernizing learning structures as a way of enhancing the learning environment. In line with this, this also posed a challenge to the schools in this State and as technology and the content of learning materials improved, a need to modernize the existing structures and build other modern structures arose. It is also important to note that the financial need to construct modern learning facilities also arose from the fact that there have been a growing number of students who join school each and every year. Their rising number has necessitated school to seek to expand in order to accommodate their numbers without compromising on the standards of education that is delivered in the schools (Carroll, 2005).
In line with this, California as a State has worked for the last three decades on different ways of raising finances that would arguably be used to construct State of the art facilities that would guarantee that students in this State are able to learn under an appropriate environment. However, one of the important issues to note is that there have been disparities in the allocation of funds that are meant to be used in the construction of school. In spite of this, the leadership of the State of California has worked out different reforms that were meant to reduce the level of disparity in this area of the education system (Carroll, 2005).
Solutions to School Finance
There are numerous methods that could be proposed as a way of dealing with the challenges that emerged in the educational systems in California in regard to school finance. These methods vary from each other, yet when implemented, they could be able to deal with the challenges that schools in this State faced as a result of finances. To begin with, whereas the policy reforms that were formulated in the past worked on reducing or rather eradicating disparities in school spending in different districts in California, there are still indicators that these disparities in spending were not eradicated completely. As a result of this, there is need to formulate a standardized policy that would introduce a central point of examining and analyzing the need of different schools in different districts and providing a critical solution to this form of disparities. In this regard, one way that this could be achieved is through by shifting or rather formulating a State-level financing and governance. Similarly, a local finance structure that is consistent with the Serrano ruling should be implemented to deal financial challenges that arise in schools in different districts (Bersin, Kirst & Liu, 2008, p.6).
Since most districts faced discrimination in terms of fund allocation, the Serrano ruling would guarantee that there is a normalized educational system that would allocate funds to different schools without compromising the Serrano ruling. On the other hand, the State-level governance and finance would provide an opportunity for the leadership in the State of California to be fully in control of fund allocation to schools in different districts. Such a policy would assist in eliminating the disparities that have existed for a long period of time in the educational system in California (Bersin, Kirst & Liu, 2008).
The sources of finances also were found to be one of the contributors to disparities that were experienced in different districts in California. To begin with, property tax was seen as one of the major contributors of funds towards the educational programs or rather schools in the States of California. Therefore, those districts that had the highest number of contributors enjoyed a large amount of income for schools that would enable them to develop extensively as compared to their counterparts in districts that were less developed. In line with this, channeling the amount of money that was raised for the purposes of supporting schools was better off when it was channeled to the administration of the State of California and then disbursed according to the needs and status of different schools in different districts. Such proposals required an equitable distribution of funds that was based on the status of development or rather how far a school had gone in terms of development (Mandell, 2010).
The issue of finances remained as one of the most challenging issue in the educational system in California. In this regard, there was need to seek for a standardized way of seeking for funds across the State of California as a way of dealing with a future that contained uncertainty. In line with this, it was important to seek for a way of raising funds in such a way that even when the economy deteriorated, the educational system was not compromised as a result of lack of funds. One way of doing this is enacting a school based form of raising funds. In this regard, a school could find a way of getting its own donors who would be given certain incentives such as tax waivers when they contributed a certain amount of money towards a particular school. Whereas this could lessen the burden on the State of California, it was also an amicable way of ensuring that even if the amount of money that was raised through taxes was not enough to be allocated to schools as proposed, there would still be a continuous flow of funds towards education programs in different schools (Imani, 2010).
Alternatively, school districts can be removed completely. Currently, the State of California has several districts with each district carrying or rather having a number of schools. Therefore, the current methods of funds allocations is based on the fact that a certain district is allocated certain amount of money or rather funds depending on the district in which this school is found. However, to eliminate any form of bias, the government representation in California could work on eliminating school districts and counting schools in California as one region (Carroll, 2005).
In consistent with this, the State of California would then succeed in disbursing government resources equal among the schools within its area of jurisdiction easily. Apart from providing a channel for fund distribution according to need in these schools under bureaucratic control, it would be easier to call school administration into accountability. Whereas the issue of accountability by the school administration was somehow ignored in the society in California, creating a central unit of allocation of State funds would also drive this State into a position of seeking for accountability for every cent that has been given out. Similarly, the accountability standards would be developed with each school administration being required to follow a particular standard that would enable them to be accountable. In the previous model of using districts, each district could develop its own standards as it seemed fit for them. Under the new system, standards were developed by the State of California and administered to very school within its boundaries. In this case, the management of schools would be made easier (Wood, 2010).
The State of California has experienced numerous school finance reforms since the 1970s. These reforms were explicit in the decisions that were made in the Serrano v. Priest case that barred financial discrimination that was being experienced by different schools in various districts in California. In line with this, the decisions that were made towards giving judgment in this case formed a basis for the numerous reforms that would be made many years later in regard to finances and the school system. Among the reforms that were made is the reform towards enhancing the distribution of funds in schools that were raised through property taxes in every district in California. Following this point, it was realized that there were numerous challenges that were faced by the State of California in distribution of funds in every district of California.
However, most of these challenges were met with litigation measures that took place in California. These litigations enabled the leadership of California to works on ways of ensuring that there was a balanced or rather equitable distribution of funds. It is also important to note that the decisions that were made in California depended heavily or rather were influenced by public polls or votes. The decisions that were accorded to different cases by the court in California also played an important role ensuring that was a balanced financial system in regard to schools in California.