Even if there were money to pay for it, the state’s new algebra mandate would still be a bad idea.
ow that the State Board of Education is foolishly requiring every eighth-grader to take algebra, starting in three years, all that remains to be figured out is, how on Earth is this going to happen when so few kids are on track to get there?
The solution, according to state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, is to spend $3.1 billion on a “California Algebra I Success Initiative” that would recruit and train math teachers, lengthen the middle-school day, reduce class sizes in math and so forth.
The ideas are good enough. Essentially, though, they’re a political ball tossed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pushed for the eighth-grade requirement. (O’Connell opposed it.) The governor took on the easy part of school reform, in which he got to call for an unrealistic standard and proclaim that California was the first in the land with such high expectations. Will he now refuse to pay for the math requirement that he said was so necessary? That’s a possibility. The algebra funding would add about 5% to the state’s total allocation for public education, money that is not readily available even in a good budget year.