A new report from the Berkeley Institute for Young Americans (part of the California 100 initiative) questions the sustainability of California public education, finding that long-term structural challenges in the state’s finance system and flaws in education governance threaten its long-term outlook.

As reported by EdSource, the analysis examines how California manages and funds early care and education (ECE), K-12 and higher education systems to assess strengths and shortcomings. Two structural issues emerge: inadequacy of the formula to determine funding levels; and instability of the finance system, which may falter during recessions, fueling dramatic losses.

According to the report’s researchers, the state has historically underinvested in education and ends up living with the results, including not enough subsidized childcare seats, low levels of K-12 academic achievement and rising tuition across higher education. Even when lawmakers try to make up for past underinvestment with multi-year budget surpluses, the one-time money schools receive puts programs and improvements at risk with future downturns.

Researchers also found that, looking ahead, the rise of alternative education models must also be addressed. That’s why they see the report as a conversation starter to consider what education might look like in California a century from now. The researchers encourage readers to consider these questions:

Is the existing educational ecosystem sufficient for the future of California over the next 100 years?

  • How should state lawmakers regulate and govern in the decades to come, if at all, across a growing and complex network of organizational arrangements, institutional structures and rapid technology changes across the P-16 system?
  • What role should the state play in defending and improving student equity, social mobility and the democratic purposes of education?
  • Are reforms to the state’s education finance system necessary?
  • And what role, if any, is there for the private sector to provide services in early childhood education, K-12 and higher education?