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Public schools see paradox of lower funding, higher test scores

July 2, 2011
Sacramento Bee
Kirst warns class size increases in California are "unanalyzed and undiscussed"
Diana Lambert and Phillip Reese

It's a trend that would seem to defy conventional wisdom: As public school spending has declined in California in recent years, student achievement test scores have gone up.


Michael Kirst, the Stanford education professor who is currently president of the State Board of Education, agreed that state test scores don't tell the whole story.

"We're seeing these huge class-size increases in a short period of time," Kirst said. "This has been entirely unanalyzed and undiscussed. We're plunging into the unknown."

Kirst said schools haven't yet experienced the full brunt of state spending cuts. California cut funding to K-12 schools by 14 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to data from EdSource, a nonprofit research group. School districts were able to soften the impact by spending down reserves and taking advantage of one-time federal stimulus money.

"This is the first year – 2011-12 – where most of the federal money is out of the system and most have drained their reserves," Kirst said.


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