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Direct state funding of individual schools?
GOP governor hopeful Kashkari wants massive overhaul of education code
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari on Tuesday proposed scrapping California’s complex education code, sending state money directly to individual schools rather than their districts, and offering state-funded scholarships to certain college students in exchange for a share of their future earnings.

He also said he wants to equalize the quality of instruction throughout the state to ensure that poor and minority students receive the best education possible.

Yet his proposals included few details on how he would execute his ideas or ensure that schools are held accountable for spending, teaching and testing practices.

For example, he did not say how he would ensure instructional quality after scrapping the state codes that are intended to provide oversight, and he does not detail how state money would be distributed to individual neighborhood schools under his funding revamp.

Many of the proposals offered by Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official and Goldman Sachs investment banker, are similar to those promoted by Republican education reformers, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. They want to see more public schools operating as charters that are freed from many of the reporting requirements other schools face.

Kashkari also proposes scrapping California’s cap on the number of charter schools, which can also operate without unionized teachers.

His education plan came after Gov. Jerry Brown received widespread praise for restructuring the state’s school financing system to send more money to schools with the highest proportion of low-income students, English-learners and foster children. California’s tax revenue is expected to increase by about $6 billion a year, some of which will be dedicated to education, after Brown persuaded voters in 2010 to approve temporary income tax increases on the wealthy and to the state sales tax.

Kashkari, a political newcomer who is best known for overseeing the bank bailout at the height of the recession, is trying to get through the June primary so he can challenge the Democratic governor in November. He has criticized Brown’s education changes as mere “tinkering” within a flawed system that is controlled by powerful teachers unions.

He said Tuesday that the state needs “bold, transformational” changes rather than the status quo.

“There is a role for the district, there is a role for the state in this oversight, but the decision making and the control and the authority should be in the hands of the teachers and the parents at the individual school site,” Kashkari said in an interview.

Still, it’s unclear from the proposal how California’s nearly 10,300 individual schools could comply with a tangle of federal and state laws on a host of mandates, including racial parity in spending and teaching.

Brown’s political spokesman, Dan Newman, said in an email that “major and significant reforms of education in California are now underway thanks to the passage of Gov. Brown’s Proposition 30 and his historic Local Control Funding Formula.”

Kashkari’s chief Republican rival in the June primary is state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who has not detailed any policy positions. Messages left with two Donnelly spokeswomen were not returned Tuesday.

Kashkari’s education proposals include:

— Sending state money directly to individual schools “so that teachers, principals, and parents can decide how the funding is spent.” Determining how much each school would receive under what criteria would be a huge challenge. Kashkari’s campaign said the California Department of Education would continue as an enforcement body to ensure students are meeting standards.

— Eliminating “the vast majority of the California Education Code, providing all schools with the flexibility that charters enjoy and transforming how kids are educated.”

— Tying funding for individual college campuses to measurable outcomes such as graduation, retention and transfer rates.

— Requiring the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems to make 20 percent of their classes available online within four years and allowing students to take classes from other systems, which he said would expand access to some of the best professors.

— Creating a state-sponsored college scholarship program for science, technology, education and math students in exchange “for a small interest in their future earnings.” Kashkari’s campaign said it did not have a cost estimate for such a proposal, but the state Legislative Analyst’s Office is assessing a similar idea.