Friday, September 13, 2019

On School District Consolidation in Marin

"The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it's about the courage to show up when you can't predict or control the outcome." Brené Brown ("Dare to Lead")

The recent talk of exploring ways to create "efficiencies" through school district consolidation in Marin County, has been interesting to watch.  Having now worked in three different California counties, this isn't my first rodeo with this particular subject.  It is, however, my first rodeo in a county where the underlying fiscal structures of the member school districts is so vastly disparate, that what became unbelievably complex and challenging in "efficiency" discussions elsewhere, seems almost simplistic compared to the current Marin conversation.

To illustrate what I believe would be a significant obstacle to conquer before attaining any meaningful level of district consolidation in Marin, I offer the chart below. This information comes from Ed-Data, a publicly accessible education data partnership that collects and compiles a number of mandated reports from school districts and county offices throughout California. In this case we are looking at only one snippet of data for each of Marin’s school districts - unrestricted revenues for the 2017-18 school year (2018-19 data is not yet available). These revenues represent an aggregate number comprised of each school district’s unrestricted revenues from the base allocation (either LCFF or basic aid), State lottery funds and the Education Protection Account (EPA). All districts have this category of revenue, which is probably why Ed-Data posts it for "apples-to-apples" comparison purposes across districts. When Ed-Data divides unrestricted revenues by each district’s average daily attendance (ADA), the resulting number indicates each district’s unrestricted per-ADA revenue. As we can see, the range is quite large ... extending from $8,614/ADA at the bottom of the range (RVSD), to $43,797/ADA at the top of the range (Bolinas-Stinson).

If school districts in Marin were to consolidate, one likely hurdle would be work out the impact of the resulting fiscal disparities that could occur from such consolidation. For example, RVSD's unrestricted per-ADA revenues in 2017-18 were $8,614 and Ross’ were $16,919. If Ross and Ross Valley were to consolidate, there would be a certain, sudden and negative fiscal impact on the per-pupil revenues in Ross. The disparity is even greater if we look at another example, Mill Valley and Sausalito-Marin City.  For Mill Valley the per-ADA unrestricted revenue in 2017-18 was $9,146 and for Sausalito-Marin City it was $41,823.

It should be noted that the data table above does not paint the full picture on what each district actually receives in terms of total per-ADA revenues. Other revenue components not included above include Federal restricted revenues, State restricted revenues and local revenues. These revenue sources can be variable between different types of districts depending upon a multitude of factors, so for comparison purposes they do not necessarily provide as clean a measure. Even so, when you factor the “all in” revenues, the disparities can be even more dramatic. For example, when all revenues (unrestricted and restricted) are taken into consideration, Ed-Data reports Mill Valley’s 2017-18 per-ADA total revenues at $15,384/ADA. For Sausalito-Marin City the total per-ADA revenue was a whopping $50,920.

In counties where all or most of the school districts are similarly base-funded (i.e. through the LCFF), the potential for working-out possible consolidations is perhaps a tiny bit easier due to the fact that the range in per-ADA base revenues is typically more narrow. But in a county like Marin, where we clearly see there are “haves” and “have-nots,” when it comes to base revenues, the range in per-ADA funding creates a problem that may be insurmountable.

What else does the data table above show?

In addition to helping illustrate one of the major complexities involved in school district consolidation within Marin, the above table also dramatically illustrates a fundamental inequity that exists within a relatively small county that served only 33,741 students in 2017-18 (Ed-Data). The disparities we see above, literally impact everything from recruitment and retention of staff to the cost of substitutes and even how much we all pay for county-level special education supports and services. Also, in order for lower base funded Marin districts to keep up with their surrounding highly base funded neighbors, excessive strain and stress must be put on the lower base funded districts' budgets.  This, in turn, can contribute significantly to challenges such as the pattern of deficit spending that a number of districts are now experiencing.

Is there a solution?  Many of us old-timers once thought so.  We believed the landmark 1971 case, Serrano v. Priest, 5 Cal.3d 584 was supposed to settle the issue of gross funding disparities between school districts in California.

In finding for the plaintiffs in Serrano 1971, the judge stated,
"We are called upon to determine whether the California public school financing system, with its substantial dependence on local property taxes and resultant wide disparities in school revenue, violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We have determined that this funding scheme invidiously discriminates against the poor because it makes the quality of a child's education a function of the wealth of his parents and neighbors. Recognizing as we must that the right to an education in our public schools is a fundamental interest which cannot be conditioned on wealth, we can discern no compelling state purpose necessitating the present method of financing. We have concluded, therefore, that such a system cannot withstand constitutional challenge and must fall before the equal protection clause."
It’s been almost fifty years since that decision was handed down, yet the “disparities in school revenues” are alive and well, right here in Marin.  

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A New School Year Begins!

"Everyone is a genius.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."  Albert Einstein

This morning, for the sixth school year, I had the honor and opportunity to address my Ross Valley School District colleagues at our annual "Welcome Back" meeting.  My message this year focused on a common, but powerful saying that we've all probably heard many times ...

"You shouldn't judge a book by its cover." 

Back in elementary school, this was the go-to saying of one of my most beloved teachers, who would often wag her finger back and forth as she said it.  Even as very young students my classmates and I knew that our teacher wasn't talking about actual books. She was talking about us and the importance of learning to not make assumptions, draw conclusions or infer intent regarding others, based on limited and/or superficial information. 

It was a good message then and still is today.

In sharing this message with my colleagues I challenged us all to remember that when our students arrive next week for the first day of the 2019-20 school year, they are far more than the "covers" we may see on the surface.  Instead, we can choose to see each of them as a book with his or her own unique story.  If we care enough to take the time to truly learn more about our students' stories and if we share a bit of our own stories with them, we begin to build a meaningful connection whose byproduct will be the richest and deepest teaching and learning of all.

John C. Maxwell summed it up perfectly when he said, "Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

I am looking forward to a promising year ahead and opportunities for our students and us to add some new chapters to our stories.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

On Work In Progress

"There is no end to education.  It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education.  The whole of life, from the moment you are born until the moment you die, is a process of learning."  Jiddu Krishnamurti

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home from open house at one of our RVSD schools and I began wondering how many of these events I've attended over the years?  I remember going to open houses as a kid, where I'd proudly show my parents my completed work and anxiously await my teachers' response to the inevitable parent question, "How is Rick doing?"  I remember open house as a parent, where I'd have a chance to see our daughters' finished work, time to visit with fellow parents and of course, the opportunity to ask our kids' teachers the same question my parents asked mine so many years before.  I also remember open houses as a teacher, where I'd work for hours to make sure my students' completed work was well displayed and my classroom was as perfect as I could make it.  As an administrator, open houses are a great opportunity to see and experience a school in its full context and to chat with many parents, students, teachers and staff.  In every role I've always loved open house and now, as Superintendent, these evenings have become my favorites of the entire year.  I feel like I get to be a student, parent, teacher and school leader, all at the same time.

This year open house has been extra special, mainly because I've noticed a small (but incredibly powerful) shift in the way many of our teachers are presenting it.  Instead of a showcase for all our students' completed work, this year many of our classrooms also featured examples of what we refer to as "works in progress."  These are the rough drafts, sometimes very rough, of whatever our students are working on. They are sometimes messy and smudged, with words here and there spelled phonetically, math problems partially solved and projects half-built.  They are not yet the polished and perfect products they will one day become ... they are physical representation of process thinking, exploring, trial and error.

And in their imperfection, I think they are all beautiful.

As parents and educators we all want to see and be proud of our kids' finished work, but we also want to know how they got there.  When we see and admire a work in progress, we see beyond the object and into its creator.  We get to see how our kids think, reason, adapt and persist.  We get to see and be proud of who our kids are becoming, by celebrating the journey with them.

I must also mention that it takes more than a bit of courage and self-confidence on the part of teachers and students, to display and share unfinished work.  After all, the open house "tradition" has always been to put out whatever grade-appropriate version of "perfection" our students can produce.  Showing imperfection goes against the grain, yet I proudly applaud our RVSD teachers and students for doing so.  Don't get me wrong, I love seeing our students' finished work. But there's something truly special about watching a student explain to her or his parents, the process s/he is working through and how s/he is overcoming the challenges encountered along the way.   

The whole of life is indeed a process of learning and I so appreciate the many ways in which our professional teaching staff and our students, make the learning process accessible and visible to us all. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

On Bullying - Part 3

"Someone out there will hate you now. But what you take is what you allow.”  Sarah Bettens (song: “Come Over Here”)

In spring 2014, I was applying to be Superintendent of the Ross Valley School District. The search firm employed by the RVSD Board of Trustees conducted a comprehensive process that included a detailed application, writing samples, current letters of recommendation, several rounds of interviews, in-person conversations with more than thirty colleagues from my former district, extensive reference checks and a background investigation conducted by Baker-Eubanks, LLC.  

At the same time the District was conducting their due diligence on me, I was conducting mine on them.

One of the first things I learned about RVSD from the May 22, 2014 "Leadership Profile Report," was that the top challenge facing the District and its new Superintendent would be "Manor School traditional/MAP conflicts."  As I progressed through the many steps of the recruitment and selection process, this conflict kept surfacing to the point where it became a theme.  In retrospect I had no idea of the full context regarding this long-standing and complex issue, but I knew this was an area I needed to research more closely if I intended to keep my hat in the ring.

Candidates for Superintendent positions typically have networks to call upon for candid information about school districts. I was no exception. Given my 36 years of experience serving four amazing Southern California school districts (two of them hired me twice), I'm blessed and thankful to have friends and colleagues throughout the State and beyond.  This includes several contacts who either had direct knowledge of RVSD or could refer me to reliable sources who did.  I reached out to a few of these contacts to learn all I could about RVSD and the conflict that seemed to be consuming it.

What I learned then, and virtually every day since, serves as a real-life study in bullying characteristics, behavior and the consequences to come for those who dare challenge it.  

During the recruitment and selection process I spoke with several people who consistently described RVSD as a district "suffering from a 20+ year history of harassment and bullying."  They used terms such as "broken," "demoralized," and "hijacked," to describe the ways in which a small "alternative" program headed by two former RVSD Trustees, dominated the District's focus, energy, resources and time.  The result, among other things, was years of tremendous leadership and governance instability through constant turnover of Principals, Superintendents and Board Trustees.  At the time I was being recruited to come to RVSD, the District had just lost its ninth Superintendent in fifteen years, another Manor Elementary School Principal, another Director of Student Services/Special Education and another Chief Business Official.  

Of all the information shared with me about RVSD, perhaps the most memorable comment I heard about the District's decades-old conflict was, "In a nutshell, RVSD is a scene out of 'The Magnificent Seven'."

That seemed like a bizarre reference and comparison, to say the least.  It definitely piqued my interest.

For those who may not know, "The Magnificent Seven" was originally released in 1960 and included a star-studded cast of veteran actors (see below). Adapted from the 1954 Japanese film, "Seven Samurai," the movie tells the story of a beleaguered farming village whose elders hire seven men to stand-up to a gang of marauding oppressors.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, "life imitates art far more than art imitates life."  I can't really say whether RVSD had become a scene from this western-period classic, but I do see interesting parallels between what RVSD has endured over the years and the on-screen actions illustrated by some of the "Seven's" most infamous lines: 
  • CALVERA (Eli Wallach): "If I leave here with empty hands, everyone will answer to me when I come back."  In real life and on the silver screen, bullies issue demands and make threats about what will happen if their demands aren't met.  In the case of Ross Valley and the alternative program that morphed into a State-approved charter school, we've yet to have a single interaction where there hasn't been at least one "... or else" attached.  It's almost uncanny and people who haven't lived with it can't grasp how this commonly used bully tactic so profoundly diminishes everything.  There can be no rational conversation with people who make threats, much less what some refer to as "mediation." Ultimatums are the bully's bread and butter, at least so long as people are willing to tolerate them.  This brings me to the next infamous line from the "Seven" script ...    
  • CALVERA (Eli Wallach): "If God hadn't meant for them to be sheared, he wouldn't have made them sheep."  Another common characteristic of bullying is they typically see their victims as weak, defenseless, disorganized, afraid and powerless.  Yet as we've explored in parts 1 and 2 of this "On Bullying" series, the balance of power can shift dramatically once people declare, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"  Here in RVSD the real-life shift occurred when so many in our community decided that their public schools had been held hostage for far too long.  Even so, standing-up to the bullying in RVSD has come at a steep price for all of us, but particularly those children who (for years) were discriminated against on account of their race, gender, socioeconomic status, English proficiency and/or their disabilities.  We've paid the price by enduring endless personal attacks on social media and in the local newspaper, where we are called names, our integrity and character are impugned by anonymous posters and historical context is manipulated beyond recognition in repeated attempts to propagandize a hateful narrative.  We've paid the price in defending against the repeated frivolous lawsuits filed against our District and community.  We've paid the price politically, in the words and actions of local politicians, self-described "journalists" and others, who are part of the bullies' entourage and seek to restore their myopic version of "peace in the valley." The good news is, these are all clear signs that standing up to the bullies is working.  As the bully's tactics go even lower, it's a sure indicator that desperation has taken control.  I don't like the personal attacks any more than anyone else, but it's important to remember that these are more a reflection on the attacker than the attacked.
  • CALVERA (Eli Wallach): "Seriously ... that was my first mistake.  I leave these people a little bit extra and then they hire these men to make trouble.  It shows you, sooner or later, you must answer for every good deed."  This particular line illustrates a couple of important points about bullies and their behavior.  First, bullies who are challenged somehow miraculously find a way to twist the narrative around so they become the victim.  Second, twisting the narrative around supports the bully's false belief that their prior actions were not only justified, but somehow beneficial to those they bullied.  We've seen this scenario play-out in our own local situation, where those who held the District's spotlight for so long, now see themselves as the bullied, jilted by others who (to their "Monkey Mind" way of thinking) should actually be grateful for all the wonderful "choices" they've created.  Another interesting aspect of Calvera's quote is the notion that the men hired to help the local townspeople are "making trouble."  Indeed, at least from the bully's perspective, changing the long-held status quo is troubling.  In our real life situation, the historical turnover of school and district leaders fed nicely into the status quo that reigned in RVSD.  That all changed in 2014.  When new leadership stood-up to the bullies' threats, attacks and intimidation tactics, that leadership (including me) became "trouble."  The bullies want us gone at all costs, but the problem is, too many in the community are now fully aware and engaged. They are all standing-up, too, and I've a good feeling they'll continue standing long after current leadership "rides into the sunset."   
  • VIN (Steve McQueen): "[a] Fella I once knew in El Paso ... one day he took all his clothes off and jumped into a mess of cactus.  I asked him 'why?'  He said it seemed to be a good idea at the time."  I consider myself fortunate to have had a good number of leadership opportunities over the years.  Back in 2014 I was finishing my third year in a Deputy Superintendent role I'd originally promised I'd only do for two, yet the Board had recently extended my contract for an additional three year term (through June 2017).  Great school boards, by the way, are a treasure and far more important than most people realize.  In my former district we had one of the best, brightest, most student-centered and "personal agenda-free" boards I'd known to that point - it was an honor to work with them and a Superintendent I'd known and respected for over twenty years.  Also, I was surrounded by a dedicated, talented and loyal team in a beautiful community where there were definitely challenges (we all have them no matter what we do), but the successes far outweighed the failures. Together our work was having a positive, documented impact on the lives of so many students. And like here, the voices of a few detractors occasionally seemed louder than those of the supporters who far outnumbered them, but that's just how it is sometimes.  Overall I'd adjusted to that "mess of cactus" and so, you may ask, given all I'd learned about RVSD and its history over the past two decades, what made me decide to jump into this one?  The simple answer is, in RVSD I saw a unique opportunity to join forces with a caring and committed Board of Trustees, to fix what many said was broken, empower those who felt demoralized and return this small but amazing district to its primary focus. It was, without question, our RVSD Board of Trustees who made this opportunity unique above the others I had, including the opportunity to stay another three years in my former position. From my earliest interactions with them, I knew the RVSD Board was the group I wanted to jump with into this particular "mess of cactus."     
Through all my research on RVSD and after having gone through a fairly grueling recruitment and selection process, I felt I had a pretty good idea what I was getting myself into.  I've dealt with bullies before, in many forms, and been around the block a few times.  In hindsight, I completely underestimated the magnitude of this particular situation and all it would take ... from all of us ... to cope with it.  I was once just like every other person who looks at our local situation, reasonably and rationally, from the outside in.  I thought, "How bad could it really be?"  I also thought, "We'll all just sit down and work things out."  That's what everyone thinks, until they learn through their own experience, what this little community has been living with for over twenty years.  This is where real life no longer imitates art.  On the movie screen it may take only seven people to bring about meaningful change, but in real life it takes far more than that.  And, unlike the movie cowboys who "... deal in lead, friend," our bully challenges are more than twenty years in the making and won't end just because the popcorn runs out.  Our script is still being written.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

On Economies of Scale

"What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one.  Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core."  Hannah Arendt
In a recent op-ed published by our local newspaper, a community member suggests, "It’s time for a bigger conversation in Marin about education and about what’s hiding under the guise of the “local control” argument that has brought us 19 school districts..."  The writer goes on to urge the community to engage in, "...a bigger conversation about the impacts we could have by combining forces to address the diverse needs of all kids in this county."
According to Ed-Data, in 2017-18 Marin County's seventeen school districts, County Office and one State-approved charter school, served approximately 33,741 students.  That same year, in California overall there were 944 elementary, high school and unified school districts (Ed-Data, 2018).  The op-ed writer theorizes that by "combining forces" (e.g. consolidating districts) the talent pool for Superintendents and Board governance teams will produce leadership that is more effective and skilled at addressing the "diverse needs of all kids."

For the time being, let's ignore that the writer of this op-ed has been an outspoken supporter of a local charter school and that charters in California have ballooned in their numbers to 1,248 (Ed-Data, 2017).  Let's also ignore (for now) the fact that these 1,248 additional autonomous entities create massive redundancy, significant cost burdens, endless distractions and are governed by self-appointed private citizens whose expenditures of our taxpayer dollars are accountable to no one.  On every level this op-ed is a full-scale hypocrisy, but its premise is worth addressing.

The essential question being asked is whether the consolidation of public educational entities in California would result in more skilled district leadership and therefore greater success for the overall population of diverse learners?  How do we answer this question?  

Time for a "data dive."

In 2014-15 the State of California began to annually assess students' proficiency in meeting the new Common Core State Standards for English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics.  The tool used, known as the "California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress" or "CAASPP," is taken each year by students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11.  A key metric is the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards and thanks to technology, it is relatively easy to dis-aggregate out the data by a variety of factors.  For example, we can analyze CAASPP data by ethnicity and then observe trends in students' proficiency for up to four school years (2014-15 to 2017-18).  We can also compare performance by ethnicity, thereby determining for example, the difference or "gap" that may exist in proficiency between student groups.  If we then look at these gaps over time, we can see the degree to which progress is made in closing the gap.  

If we assume that the answer to the essential question above is "yes," then we'd reasonably expect to see progress made over time toward closure of the proficiency gaps between student groups.  This should, if the op-ed writer's premise is correct, be particularly apparent for school districts run by what we assume to be highly talented and skilled leaders.

Let's begin our data dive at the top.

By all accounts, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the largest "combined force" in California's public education history.  In 1961, two separate Los Angeles school districts merged to become the nation's second largest public school system, currently operating 1,007 schools and 279 charters (Ed-Data, 2017 and 2018).  Since 2000, LAUSD has had nine Superintendents, including a former admiral, former governor, several career educators and currently, a billionaire businessman.  LAUSD must certainly draw its leaders from a very select and exclusive talent pool, and because it takes so much time, expense and political capital to be elected to the LAUSD Board of Trustees, that pool must be pretty exclusive, too.

How does LAUSD, the granddaddy of "combined forces" do in terms of bridging the proficiency gap for its diverse population of students?  In the immortal words of Richard Dawson, "Survey says ... keep working on it."  

For English-language arts (ELA), the 2014-15 gap between the percentage of White and African American students meeting or exceeding standards, was 37%.  In other words, 37% more White students were at or above standards in ELA, than African American students.  Four years later in 2017-18, the gap was 35.65%.  In four full school years, the proficiency gap between White and African American students in ELA, narrowed by 1.35%.  The gap closure between White and Latino students fared a bit better, narrowing by 3.25% over the four year period.  Even so, LAUSD's White students performed at or above standards in ELA, by 30.75% over their fellow Latino students.

In mathematics the gap (37%) did not close at all for White students compared to African American students.  For White students compared to Latino students, the gap went from 33% in 2014-15 to 32.05% in 2017-18, a narrowing of just under one percent.

That's a lot of numbers to digest, I know, but in terms of theoretical "cream of the crop" leaders and governance teams successfully addressing the needs of all kids, I think it is safe to say LAUSD has yet to bridge the performance divide between its diverse groups of students.

Maybe LAUSD isn't a good example. After all, the residents of Los Angeles have been trying to break-up its "combined forces" for decades, claiming it is too large to adequately serve the needs of its diverse student population. Perhaps instead we should analyze a smaller district; one that is more the size of what Marin County would be if it were a single district.  

To test the above premise with a district whose student population is closer to that of Marin County, we can go down the list of California school districts, by enrollment, and find Moreno Valley Unified School District located in Riverside County.  Moreno Valley USD has one Superintendent and one Board, serving some 33,134 students - almost equal to the total number of TK-12 students in Marin's 19 duplicated educational systems.

Using the same gap analysis as above, we learn that for English-Language arts, Moreno Valley barely narrowed the White/Aftican American gap (-0.16%) and White/Latino gap (-4.83%) over the same four year period.  In mathematics the gap between White and African American students widened (+1.49%) and narrowed between White and Latino students  (-2.58%).  Moreno Valley USD has managed to narrow some of its students' performance gaps a bit over the past four years, but like LAUSD, this is still very much a work in progress when in comes to making significant gains over time.  

My purpose with all this is not to pick on LAUSD, Moreno Valley USD or any other school district.  The fact is, our esteemed colleagues in these districts are doing all they can, in the face of massive challenges, to close performance gaps that have existed between our diverse student populations for as long as this data has been collected.  It is very complex work and in Marin County we have fared no better.  In fact, our only gap closure over the past four years is in mathematics, where the gap between Marin's White and African American students narrowed by 4.42%. Clearly, we don't have the gap-bridging secret any more than anyone else.

We could do this type of analysis all day long and the results would be more of the same. The notion that larger districts attract better leadership/governance talent and therefore do better at serving students' diverse needs, is flawed.  Equally flawed is the naive assumption that smaller districts don't have strong, effective and talented leadership/governance teams.  Hyperbolic rants in local newspapers, anger-filled on-line posts, phony pledges and anonymous cut-and-paste blogs, will never change the underlying data or help us more quickly bridge our students' performance gaps.

Had the op-ed writer's premise been about consolidation as a means of conserving our State's finite fiscal and human resources, this blog post might have gone in an entirely different direction.  Logically, it makes perfect sense that by "combining forces" and reducing the total number of educational entities throughout the State, costly duplications could be minimized and potentially vast economies of scale could be achieved.  Yet as I pointed out when this long post began, the proliferation of charter schools in California has more than doubled the number of autonomous educational entities in our State and moved the needle far in the opposite direction from "combining forces."  California is now bloated with educational entities it is incapable of supporting and charters, whose regulation and oversight is poor at best, stand as a prime example.  And speaking of talent pools, who is leading and governing all of these charter operations, many of which are tiny in size?   If the leadership talent pool is shallow for Marin's 17 districts, what has the addition of another 1,248 under-regulated entities accomplished?  

Yes, op-ed writer, hypocrisy aside let's all please explore the possible benefits of "combining forces" by consolidating the number of autonomous educational entities to a more manageable, affordable, legitimate and efficacious number.  This will, however, mean having real conversations about what education is and isn't.  It will mean talking about what's hiding under the guise of the "choice" argument that has brought us 1,248 charters.  It will mean that not everyone who imagines they have built a "better system" just because they want it to be true, will be granted permission to hijack everyone else's time and resources in pursuit of their false fantasy. And it will mean having the political courage to once and for all bury the rubber stamp that has repeatedly distorted, undermined, corrupted, over-committed and under-delivered on California's once-proud and solemn promise to provide its children with true public education.