Survey Documents Multiple "Stress Factors" On California's Largest School Districts
May 8, 2012
For immediate release
California's 30 largest school districts--which educate nearly 2 million students--are facing multiple stresses magnified by the state's economic crisis, threatening their ability to provide a quality education to California's children, according to a new EdSource report.
The report was presented today at a briefing hosted by New America Media at the Japanese American Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
Using an innovative approach to gauge the mounting pressures facing school districts since the onset of the Great Recession in the 2007-08 school year, the report identifies eight "stress factors" that are affecting California school districts to varying degrees. The report is based on three surveys of the 30 districts conducted by EdSource in 2011 and 2012.
"In November, Californians are likely to be voting on two tax initiatives intended to provide more funds for the state's schools. But most voters have no way of objectively assessing the extent of the challenges facing these schools," said Louis Freedberg, EdSource executive director and lead author on the report. "We hope this report can help fill that gap."
The issues documented in this report are not confined to just the state's largest districts. A recently released survey by the Legislative Analyst's Office showed similar conditions in school districts of all sizes across the state.
Among the findings of the report, titled Schools Under Stress: Pressures Mount on California's Largest School Districts, were the following:
- Twenty-two out of 30 districts have fewer counselors than they had before the onset of the Great Recession. Across all 30 districts, the number of school counselors has declined by 20 percent since 2007-08.
- More than one-third of the districts ended up laying off some 2,000 classroom teachers for the current school year.
- Twenty-six out of 30 districts are serving more free and reduced-price meals than in 2007-08. Across the state, 57 percent of students qualify for subsidized meal programs, a 6 percentage point increase since 2007-08.
- Sixteen out of 30 school districts are suffering from declining enrollments, resulting in decreased funding from the state.
- Half of the districts surveyed had 30 or more students in one or more of their K-3 grades, a stark reversal of the 1-to-20 teacher-to-student ratio that was the norm in almost every K-3 classroom in 2007-08. Only one district reported having an average class size of 20 students and that was only in one grade--kindergarten.
- Twelve out of 30 districts have an instructional year of less than 180 days.
- Nearly all of the state's 30 largest districts are educating more students living in poverty than before the current recession.
- Every district is coping with the impact of high levels of unemployment on students and their families.
The report's release coincides with an EdSource symposium on May 9 in Anaheim titled, Striving for Success in A Time of Crisis: Strategies for Children, Families and Communities.
EdSource is convening the symposium in collaboration with the California State PTA. California's Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor will talk about the impact of the state budget on schools. Educators, researchers, and other experts will discuss how the current economic crisis is affecting children's ability to succeed in school, along with strategies to ensure they do.
For more details on the symposium, see: www.edsource.org/event
EdSource is an independent not-for-profit research organization dedicated to clarifying complex education issues.
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