by Dan Walters | The
August 18, 2007 - One of Arnold Schwarzenegger's early acts as
The 2004 settlement acknowledged, in effect, that the students were being denied textbooks, qualified teachers, safe and adequate classrooms and other educational basics. Schwarzenegger agreed to spend an additional $1 billion on schools with the lowest 30 percent of academic test scores.
This week, the lawyers who brought the suit — the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Advocates — hailed the outcome in an update prepared by researchers at UCLA. "The Williams case has provided millions of
The study found that the paucity of fully qualified teachers had been eased, that schools are being repaired and that the shortage of textbooks had dropped sharply.
"We have not yet solved every problem in every school, but the positive trends that have emerged demonstrate that this system of accountability, combined with targeted funding, works," Public Advocates co-counsel John Affeldt added.
Few would dispute that good classrooms, adequate textbooks and qualified teachers are basic necessities. And providing them is largely a matter of spending money, as the lawsuit's settlement demonstrates. What no one has proved — or disproved, for that matter — is whether spending more money does, in fact, have a significant effect on educational outcomes.
It's no small question, because it lies at the heart of
The education establishment has argued vociferously, with some success, that spending more on teacher salaries, smaller classes and better facilities would produce better outcomes. In the main, political leaders have endorsed that contention, although they've been unable to supply all the money that educators say they need.
Critics have countered that there is no direct correlation between spending and academic success, noting that private schools and whole states with lower per-pupil spending levels often surpass
The latter contention received a boost earlier this year when a 1,700-page, foundation-sponsored, Stanford University-managed series of studies on
The Stanford studies and this week's report on the lawsuit settlement's implementation are indications that the great debate on
Schwarzenegger has declared that 2008 will be the "year of education," and the many educational interest groups are cranking up. There's even a possibility that the education establishment will mount a drive to raise state taxes for schools.