Getting Down to Facts
Getting Down to Facts is the largest independent investigation ever of how California governs and funds public education. It was commissioned at the request of a bipartisan group of California leaders, including the governor’s Advisory Committee on Educational Excellence, the president protem of the California Senate, the speaker of the California Assembly, the superintendent of public instruction, and the state secretary of education.
The purpose of this unprecedented project was to describe California’s school finance and governance systems, identify aspects of those systems that hinder the effective use of resources, and estimate costs of achieving a range of student outcome goals. The project was not designed to advance specific policy recommendations, but rather aims to provide a common factual ground to promote informed conversation among policy makers and the public as they consider necessary reforms.
Coordinated by Stanford University’s Institute for Research on Education Policy and Practice (now the Center for Education Policy Analysis or CEPA), the project was independently financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the Stuart Foundation. The resulting 23 reports represent eighteen months of research completed in early 2007 by scholars at universities and research institutions across the nation.
The research carefully documents what many educators report anecdotally: while good things are happening in many districts, schools, and classrooms, California’s school finance and governance systems are fundamentally flawed and fail to help students meet state performance goals, especially students from low-income families. While meaningful reform will likely require added investment, it is also clear that absent reform, directing more money into the current system is unlikely to result in the dramatic improvements in student achievement needed to reach state goals. Our research indicates that what matters most are the ways in which current and new resources are used. To this end, the Getting Down to Facts reports provide a framework for assessing reform options going forward. This paper gives an overview of the project and its findings, while the following articles give greater detail on a select sample of the studies.
This article was originally published in Education Finance and Policy by MIT Press.