We must give Gov. Jerry Brown credit, he does not run from difficult subjects. Witness his decision to dive head first into reforming the bizarre and dysfunctional labyrinth that is California's system for parsing out dollars to its schools.
While it didn't take a genius to recognize the need, it did take a bit of political courage and a willingness to get his hands dirty to tackle such a lofty goal.
The governor certainly can't be accused of going after the low-hanging fruit here. If he is serious about this effort, he will be forced to take on the biggest stick in the state Capitol. The education establishment is to Sacramento what the Defense Department is to Washington; lots -- and lots -- of money goes in and little accountability comes out.
The state's rules for funding schools have evolved over the last 40 or so years and they are complex, counterproductive, counterintuitive and enormously confusing.
Just ask anyone who has had to deal with them, they will tell you. But, depending on their perspective, what they might not tell you is that many in the education establishment actually like it that way.
Therein lies the rub with Brown's admirable but, we fear, quixotic venture.
The more arcane and convoluted a system the easier it is to manipulate for the people who actually understand the rules. We have certainly seen that dynamic played out time and again in the various public-employee pension
The problem with serious reform of any major system, whether it be in public or private enterprise, is that nearly every change that is proposed will have a constituency of some sort and you can rest assured that constituency will wail loudly about the callous unfairness of the proposed reform.
It has been our experience that this is particularly on display in education policy.
Brown says he wants to simplify funding streams to offer more local control to school boards and more money to districts with low-income students and those who don't speak English fluently. We say amen to that. It is long overdue. It should be a no-brainer. It won't be.
The governor also hopes to eliminate dozens of rules that districts must follow to get billions of state dollars annually. That, too, is long overdue. It should be a no-brainer. It won't be.
He also wants to wipe out dozens of rules that districts must now follow to receive billions of state dollars annually.
Brown, of course, needs no lessons from us about the vagaries of Sacramento politics. If anyone has a postdoctoral degree in that subject, it is Jerry Brown. He is already meeting with many education leaders and trying to get them to help him, which means that details of his plans are ... well ... shall we say, fluid. They will emerge in the days ahead.
But, for now, we congratulate him for having the courage to make the attempt and wish him luck.