PACEsetters at 25
When PACE was founded in the early 1980s, California's schools were in turmoil following the passage of Proposition 13, which indirectly limited public education funding.
Twenty-five years later, in 2008, Proposition 13 is still intact, the state's schools are still in turmoil following the prematurely declared "Year of Education," while California's continuing budget crisis directly limits public funding and per-pupil spending has dropped below levels never dreamed of in the '80s.
Proverbially speaking, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The good news is that PACE has grown significantly in size and stature since then-Graduate School of Education Professor James Guthrie (who taught in the GSE for 27 years), Stanford Professor Michael Kirst; and then-chancellor of the California Community Colleges Gerald Hayward founded PACE (originally called Policy Alternatives for California Education). And the other good news is that the independent policy center has remained true to its pioneering mission, principles, and strategies.
"I guess that it shows that every year should be the 'Year of Education' until we keep the promise of excellent education for all of California's young people," says PACE Executive Director David Plank, who joined the PACE team two years ago from Michigan State where he founded and directed the Education Policy Center.
Plank is not about to declare PACE's mission—to define and sustain a long-term strategy for comprehensive policy reform and continuous improvement in performance at all levels of California's educational system—accomplished. But the three principles guiding the model policy center's strategies remain intact: to target resources to schools and students who need them the most; to empower local schools and districts with more autonomy and flexibility; and to rigorously evaluate what is working and what is not.
This article was originally published in Connect Ed Magazine by the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Education.