by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
On Tuesday, the contents of the highly anticipated WestEd report were released. The report was commissioned in 2017 by both the plaintiffs and defendants of the long-running Leandro lawsuit. The report contained dozens of recommendations, but here are the highlights listed in the research brief on the subject, authored by JLF’s Dr. Terry Stoops.
The High Points
Dr. Stoops mentions the laudable parts of the report that the John Locke Foundation has been encouraging for years:
While I have numerous reservations about the funding recommendations, not everything in the report is objectionable. For example, WestEd recommends that the state adopt a weighted student funding model, provide greater financial autonomy for principals, and create alternative staffing models, which are reforms that the John Locke Foundation has supported for years. Likewise, the organization has supported financial incentives for the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers in high-poverty schools. I believe that an “expert panel to assist the Court in monitoring state policies, plans, programs, and progress” is a sensible idea, as long as the panel has a politically and ideologically diverse membership.
Stoops summarizes the general fiscal recommendations, which totals around $8 billion in taxpayer money over the next eight years and would require sizable tax increases
- K–12 education operating expenditures (short-term): Invest $3.2 billion (approximately $395 million per year) over the next eight years that would provide intervention support to ensure students achieve at grade level. These investments would be withdrawn from the system after such student achievement levels are reached.
- K–12 education operating expenditures (ongoing): Invest $3.7 billion (approximately $463 million per year) over the next eight years that would allow students to maintain grade-level growth.
- Early childhood education: Invest an additional $1.18 billion in programs such as NC Pre-K and Smart Start.
- State-level infrastructure: Invest an additional $15.5 million in programs such as teacher and principal development and the state’s system of support.
Dr. Stoops explains that the report itself is inconsequential without a proceeding court order:
Dr. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University argues that costing-out analyses like the one produced by WestEd, which purport to show how much education spending is adequate, “should be interpreted as political documents, not as scientific studies.”
…By itself, the WestEd report is of little consequence. It reflects the analysis of a consulting firm that is in the business of telling states to spend more money. But a court order by Judge Lee that compels the General Assembly to implement the recommendations would be significant because, among other things, it would violate the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches. Such an order may include selected reforms from the report or the entire slate.