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Spring 2004
The Education Imperative
Beyond Rhetoric
8 Mile
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Starting Out on the Right Path
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Spring 2004
8 Mile
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The recent election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor has brought a new approach and some promising new ideas. The new governor appointed former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan — a man who, as both a private and public citizen, has been acutely concerned about the quality of education that is provided to society's most at-risk kids — secretary of education. William Ouchi, the Sanford & Betty Sigoloff Professor of Management in the UCLA Anderson School of Management, is a key adviser to Riordan and the new administration. Ouchi's ideas, most recently set out in his book Making Schools Work, have drawn wide support. These include giving school principals and teachers control of school budgets and holding them accountable for results; changing the funding system so that each student brings to the school he or she attends a subsidy weighted to take account of individual learning needs; and allowing parents to choose among public schools. The civil rights lawyers and the state are now in confidential settlement talks. It is too soon to know what may come of them.

It is just possible that a synthesis of Professor Ouchi's ideas and those advanced by Professor Oakes and the civil rights lawyers can form the basis for dramatic structural reform in California public education. Educators would be given real control over resources and then held accountable not only for test scores but for learning opportunities and conditions in schools. Schools with the highest-need students would have more resources. A public persuaded that our schools are efficient and accountable might then be willing to spend more tax money to support them. Of course, the details of all this are incredibly complicated. But an optimist can find reason for hope that we may soon begin the work of returning California schools to excellence, and the work of keeping Brown's promise of an education provided "to all on equal terms."

Professor of Law Gary Blasi researches and writes on issues of public-interest law and systems of accountability in public education, as well as the application of psychology and cognitive science to law.

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