The sky is falling in California

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Examining data from 2,000 former California public school teachers, a recent study from California State University's Teacher Quality Institute found that 22 percent of all teachers in the state will leave teaching in the next four years. The report, authored by Sacramento State University education professor Ken Futernick, found that bureaucratic impediments, poor district support, low staff morale, lack of resources, and unsupportive administrators were the primary motivators for teachers choosing to leave the profession.

Futernick's report was music to the ears of California teacher unions, which is why the report is now featured front and center on the website of the United Teachers of Los Angeles with a nice note saying that the report "confirms what teachers have known and points the way towards solutions."

And, natch, the solutions that Futernick recommends involve money and new state standards for school conditions. He calls for additional resources to bring California school funding (the NEA and NCES both rank California in the middle on per-pupil spending) to the level of other states and to increase equitable distribution. However, public schools are already the largest item in the state budget--by far. Adding more money to the pot won't necessarily result in equitable distribution of funds, as the author of the study should know.

Another recommendation calls for the state to devise a list of standards for school conditions and environment. Of course! If the state just says that schools ought to provide "an atmosphere of mutual respect" and access to the "necessary office supplies," then of course everybody will become respectful and there'll be paper in the copy machine. Why hasn't anyone thought of that before?

Might we propose a more realistic solution, in contrast to the six recommendations offered in this report? Good schools keep quality teachers, and good schools are led by good principals. No standard sent down from the state is going to prevent chaos in the lunchroom or those annoying calls on the PA system telling Mrs. Jones that she is wanted in the office immediately.