California’s Children Leading the Way . . . Down

California has the highest population of any US State (about 37 million, give or take). Of that number, more than 6 million are enrolled as students in the state’s public schools. That’s quite a few students. Unfortunately, they are not doing well:

Since then [1992], California per pupil education spending has continued to rise, and student test scores have not. In 2011, the most recent year available, California eighth-graders finished 48th in reading, ahead of just Louisiana and Mississippi, and 48th in math, ahead of just Alabama and Mississippi. Perhaps California should change its state motto to “Thank God for Mississippi.”

One big reason California’s highly paid teachers are failing to educate California’s public school students is that their pay has nothing to do with their ability to educate kids.

Thanks to union contracts, teacher pay is based on seniority, not performance.

In California, the teachers have incentives, but those incentives are not tied to ensuring that their charges are adequately prepared to enter the world as adults. Rather they are encouraged to do those things which maintain the level of funding (and power) which the teachers’ union has acquired at the expense of these children’s futures.

According to a 2010 report from the Public Policy Institute of California, for the first time ever, young adults in California are less likely to graduate from college than their parents.

By 2025, a projected 41 percent of all jobs in California will require a college degree, but only 35 percent of California adults will have one — an expected gap of 1 million graduates. What this projection really suggests is that the jobs won’t be created at all — they will instead go to other states that are producing college graduates at a fraction of California’s cost.

Is the California teachers’ union the source of all educational problems in that state? No. However, the negative influence of decades of educational policies which are focused on everything from social justice to cultural inclusiveness — instead of reading, writing and arithmetic — is impossible to ignore.

There is yet time for much of the rest of the US to learn from California’s mistakes. Only time will tell of California still hope of learning from its own recent history.