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Voter Guide: Whitman, Brown differ on education

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Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown both say reforming the state’s beleaguered education system is a top priority, but they have very different proposals for getting there.

California Watch has been tracking every statement, promise, prediction and deflection by Whitman and Brown over at Politics Verbatim. This post is the last in a series that is using those records to lay out each candidate's stance on a specific issue in detail.

On K-12 education:

The candidates agree that the state’s bureaucratic funding system, currently broken into 60 categories, needs to be streamlined to make sure the money is spent efficiently.

From there, they start to diverge. Whitman says she will fix schools by cutting administrative overhead, directing that money to the classroom and creating more charter schools – public institutions that operate outside the state regulations and union contracts that constrain traditional schools.

The former eBay chief’s plan is heavy on charter expansion, eliminating the cap on such schools and implementing reforms that would allow parents to convert underperforming schools to charters.

In addition to rewarding high-performing teachers and schools with bonuses, she would also punish underperforming schools with “school closures and staff replacement.”

“Long-term failure will no longer be an option,” she says.

Brown is critical of the emphasis on charter schools, saying in his education plan that he knows “the real world difficulties of this approach.”

His strategy focuses on what he calls the “average teacher,” with mentoring programs for young teachers and classroom apprenticeships for university students studying education. He would create a “leadership academy” to help teachers become principals, he says, and overhaul state testing to include frequent assessments based on “understanding” rather than “factoids.”

“True reform must include innovations that touch all students,” he says.

Brown touches on charter schools only briefly in his education plan, saying that they are “an important part of the education fabric” and that “the bad ones need to be closed and the good ones need to be encouraged.”

He adds that “the flexibility and innovative programs” of charter schools should be extended to traditional schools although he does not provide specifics.

The attorney general also advocates “theme schools” – institutions that would focus on a specific field, like the arts or technology. Such schools could work with local businesses to prepare students for specific careers in industries such as high-tech, engineering or health care, Brown says.

On higher education:

Whitman and Brown agree that higher education needs more money.

Whitman says she would get $1 billion from cuts to welfare and other reforms and would look to college officials on how to best spend those funds. Brown says he’d shift spending from prisons.

Brown also proposes a new Master Plan, the long-ignored 1960 document that defined the roles of the UC, CSU and community college systems and promised a tuition-free education for all Californians. He would emphasize online classes to expand access to education, he says, and would ease the transfer process from community colleges to UC or CSU.

Brown has said qualified students should be allowed to attend state universities regardless of immigration status. In fact, during a recent appearance at UCLA, he said that “would be one of the first bills I’d sign.”

Whitman is strongly opposed to illegal immigrants attending state-funded institutions. Last month, she told the San Jose Mercury News editorial board: “I think at some point, you need to draw a line in the sand and say, 'We can't afford to do everything for everybody.'''



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stephdukes's picture
It's no secret that California faces a tremendous budget shortfall and high unemployment, therefore it’s no surprise, that in many ways, education that has taken a back seat to the economy in our gubernatorial election cycle. Still, we cannot afford to forget that public education and the economy are closely linked. Research shows that investments in education are one of the clearest avenues to economic gain. Six hundred thousand students dropped out of high school in the nation's 45 largest metropolitan areas in 2008. If just half of them had graduated, they likely would have generated as much as $4.1 billion in additional income and $2.8 billion in spending, much of it in their home states. California voters need clear answers on education reform now and after the election.For more thoughts on the importance of education and the midterm elections check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-wotorson/voting-for-education-and-...

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