Neel Kashkari rolls out his education plan

State funding would be routed directly to schools so principals, teachers and parents can spend it as they see fit while much of California’s Education Code would be eliminated under a plan unveiled Tuesday by Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari.

NEEL KASHKARIThe education reform legislation that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last summer was called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), so perhaps Californians can think of Kashkari’s plan as EMLCFF: Even More Local Control Funding Formula.

Handing over the purse-strings to local educators and families would let them adopt new priorities and methods – perhaps including increased vocational training and lengthening the school day and academic year – even as they’re held to strict accountability standards, Kashkari says. He also wants charter schools to have the same level of funding and facilities as traditional schools, and would eliminate the cap that limits California to 100 new charter schools per year.

For higher education, Kashkari wants to tie state funding to campuses’ success rates – as measured by credits accumulated, students retained, courses completed and degrees awarded – while putting more UC and CSU courses online and offering free tuition to science, technology, engineering and math students in exchange for a cut of their future earnings.

Kashkari’s education plan, which he’s rolling out Tuesday morning at Central City Value High School in Los Angeles, is a cornerstone of a campaign he launched in January with the slogan, “Jobs and Education. That’s It.” The former Treasury Department official and asset manager from Laguna Beach says California’s schools rank 46th in the nation in reading and math, with a huge achievement gap leaving low-income kids wanting for an adequate education.

“California used to boast one of the best education systems in the nation, and we do know how to fix our schools,” Kashkari said. “States around the country have implemented bold reforms that can help improve educational outcomes for our students, both in our K-12 schools and in our institutions of higher education.”

Yet Gov. Jerry Brown “continues to pursue superficial measures that treat only symptoms instead of undertaking bold education reforms that will help lift student achievement and rebuild the middle class,” Kashkari accused.

Brown last year signed the LCFF legislation that changes the state funding formula for K-12 schools in a way that he hopes will help boost disadvantaged students’ academic achievement. It will send $2.1 billion more to school districts with high numbers of students who are from lower-income families, who have limited English proficiency, or who are foster children.

More, after the jump…

In his State of the State address in January, Brown said the new funding system replaces “prescriptive commands issued from headquarters here in Sacramento” with more general goals that local schools can attain in their own ways. “This puts the responsibility where it has to be: In the classroom and at the local district,” the governor said. “With six million students, there is no way the state can micromanage teaching and learning in all the schools from El Centro to Eureka — and we should not even try!”

Kashkari’s plan says this new funding formula “has made slight progress in instituting a form of weighted student funding and doing away with some of the state’s restrictive categorical funding system. Yet while LCFF helps to move power away from Sacramento, it fails to empower those best equipped to improve student achievement – teachers, principals, and parents at the school level.”

LCFF puts funds under school districts’ control, but Kashkari’s plan calls for directing the money straight to the schools themselves in order to “maximize the sum of public dollars that makes it into the classroom and supports learning.”

“Teachers and principals are undoubtedly best positioned to make these decisions, rather than the current approach where funding decisions are made by bureaucrats who, though perhaps well-intentioned, are far removed from the classroom,” his plan says.

Kashkari also wants to ditch most of the state’s Education Code in order to free up those frontline educators to do as they wish. “Strict rules and regulations meant to standardize education across California … have tied the hands of principals and teachers, preventing them from creating custom-tailored instructional programs that account for the unique needs of the local student population.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.