Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education
Accountability for Learner Outcomes and Institutional Performance
Governance - Aligning Responsibilities, Authority, and Accountability
State-Level Pre K-12 and Adult Education
The structure of California's state-level governance of K-12 public education is one that has no clear lines of accountability due to multiple entities having overlapping responsibilities. Key players in the state-level governance of the public schools include:
- The Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) - this position is one of seven statewide elective offices specified in California's constitution. The responsibilities of the SPI are specified in statute, but the SPI is commonly expected to serve as the chief advocate for public education and manager of the State Department of Education. The SPI is also believed to be directly accountable to the people of California by virtue of the fact that the Superintendent is an elected officer.
- The State Board of Education (SBE) - this 11-member board is appointed by the Governor and has responsibility for setting policy for the State's public schools. The SPI serves formally as secretary to the SBE but is not considered staff to the board. The SBE maintains a nominal staff of its own to handle its business.
- The Secretary for Education - originally created by former Governor Pete Wilson in 1991 as Secretary for Child Development and Education, this position has never been formally established by constitutional provision or statute. Current Governor Gray Davis has continued the position but dropped the 'Child Development' portion of the title. Over time, there has been a gradual accretion of authority assigned to the position as well as an increased amount of responsibility for program administration and policy interpretation on behalf of the Governor.
- The Governor - by virtue of the budget authority assigned to this office, the authority to appoint members of the SBE, and selection of the Secretary for Education, the Governor has significant influence over what public education can do. In addition, the Governor is nearly always the final arbiter of policy priorities by virtue of the veto authority assigned to the position.
Local education leaders cite the existence of these multiple entities, each of which have a significant impact on education policy, and the lack of a clear delineation of roles among them, as impeding accountability for public education. Irrespective of the extent to which this is true, it is important to note that schools may receive state-level directives and advisories from each of these sources.
Any governance structure that is recommended to provide meaningful accountability at the state level must be sustainable. The scope of authority of several of the entities cited above has continually evolved over the past two decades. An effort to establish offices and delineate duties therefore must anticipate the abilities of various offices to redefine roles or insulate the system against such redefinition. In particular, the significant level of constitutional authority that rests with the Governor - as demonstrated by Governors' creation and expansion of the Office of the Secretary for Education - has allowed the Governor to have an impact the other three and consolidate policy-making authority with offices under its control.
The interests and will of the electorate must also be considered in developing governance structures. Clearly, Californians support having an elected representative whose exclusive focus is education. With one exception, every significant state-level review of K-12 accountability has recommended that the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction be made appointive, but the State - either through action by its representative government or direct vote of the electorate - has been unwilling to act to implement that recommendation.
Accountability can be substantially increased, even in the context of multiple state-level entities with authority for education, by aligning the operations of the State Board of Education and certain aspects of the Department of Education with the Governor. We therefore recommend: