Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education

The California Master Plan for Education

California's Challenge

Public education is a vital interest of our state in that it provides Californians with the capacity, knowledge, and skills to sustain our system of government, to foster a thriving economy, and to provide the foundation for a harmonious society. As the global technological economy continues to evolve, Californians require additional, enriching educational opportunities throughout their lives. Today, students enter, exit, and re-enter the education system at various points in their lives, bringing increasingly diverse learning needs to each classroom. To be responsive to Californians' needs, our state must have a comprehensive, coherent, and flexible education system in which all sectors, from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education, are aligned and coordinated into one integrated system.

In 1999, the California Legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 29, calling for the creation of a new Master Plan for Education. With this charge, California began a new journey to a new destination in a new century - namely, to provide a coherent educational system that is attentive to learner needs, literally from birth through old age. This Master Plan for Education will serve as the roadmap for that journey, with two primary goals: to provide every family with the information, resources, services, involvement, and support it needs to give every child the best possible start in life and in school; and to provide every public school, college, and university with the resources and authority necessary to ensure that all students receive a rigorous, quality education that prepares them to become a self-initiating, self-sustaining learner for the rest of their lives.

A child entering preschool in 2002 can expect to graduate from high school in 2016 and, if he or she chooses, complete her or his bachelor's degree in 2020. It is beyond our ability to know with precision the learning needs of Californians in 2020. The primary need of every student is to become a capable learner who can readily learn whatever content becomes relevant to her or his life and work; therefore, we must craft an educational blueprint that addresses this need and helps frame the decisions we make now by anticipating the diverse learning needs of the future.

The sobering reality of California's education system is that too few schools can now provide the conditions in which the State can fairly ask students to learn to the highest standards, let alone prepare themselves to meet their future learning needs. This reality and several additional compelling issues lead us to construct a comprehensive Master Plan at this time:

The students who have been served least well in our public schools, colleges, and universities - largely students from low-income families and students of color - also make up an ever greater proportion of California's increasing population; we must extend to them the same degree of educational promise that has been provided to the generations of California students that preceded them.

In addition to the foregoing structural issues, there is increasing concern over the disparity in quality of the education that our children are receiving. California no longer has any racial or ethnic group that is a majority of the state's population, yet schools serving large concentrations of low-income students, as well as those serving large numbers of Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, disproportionately receive fewer of the resources that matter in a quality education, resulting in lower student achievement. In urban and rural schools, which serve these students in higher concentrations, researchers estimate that as many as half of high school seniors leave school without the skills they need to succeed in further education or the world of work. The implications at the personal and societal level are enormous.

California's business community is increasingly concerned that California's low performance in state and national testing is occurring during a period in which students are required to have more substantial knowledge, and the ability to apply that knowledge, as well as more technical workplace skills in the post-industrial economy. One major newspaper recently stated, "the ranks of the working poor are also expanding and California is evolving, minute by minute, into a two-tiered society,"a statement supported by the following facts:

These data are indicative of the huge gap that exists between what many Californians need from their educational system and what they are actually receiving. To date, this gap has been only marginally affected by the many major reforms that have been imposed on our public schools, colleges, and universities since the mid-1980's. It provides stark evidence that a piecemeal approach to reforming education is ineffective. A comprehensive, long-term approach to refocusing education in California is clearly needed; and this approach must have a clear focus on improved student achievement. The Master Plan should be used by the Legislature as a template to ensure that proposed education legislation in coming years is consistently directed toward reaching the goals set forth in this Plan.