Yes! A California Consensus on Difficult Budget Issue

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If only California could do for its entire budget and governing system what the legislature is doing for school finance.

At a time of non-stop bad news, the Assembly voted overwhelmingly this week -- 74-2 --  to do something thought impossible: simplify the state's famously convoluted system of finance.

The legislation is far from perfect.

It sets out a lot of broad goals for how to simplify the system -- calling for a simpler formula (rather than sea of overlapping formulas that currently govern school finance) and the consolidation of the state's many targeted school funding programs into just a few -- but leaves many of the details for later.

And the legislation's sole (and very powerful) opponent, the California Teachers Assn., has a good point when it says that the legislation fails to provide more money for schools; California is near the bottom nationally in per-pupil spending.

But simplification of rules is a necessary step on the path to finding more funding.

Lawmakers and voters can't hold officials accountable for spending if the rules that govern spending are too complicated for mere mortals to understand. If you can see where your money goes and how it's been spent, you're more likely to support more money for schools.

Of course, majorities of Californians and lawmakers already support increased spending on K-12 education, as a new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows.

The problem is that California's system frustrates the will of majorities. Which is why this school financing simplification should be followed by a similar simplification of the entire budget system.

If you want to know more about the legislation, check out a smart primer by John Fensterwald of Educated Guess.

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