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September 29, 2008                  

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Sarah Mason at (916) 651-4011



PALO ALTO – State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced today that Governor Schwarzenegger signed his Senate Bill (SB) 1298, which will create the Education Data and Information Act of 2008, an unprecedented first step towards linking data about K-12 education with databases of dozens of state agencies.  Armed with the data from these linked systems, policymakers will be able to make more informed decisions about how to spend the more than $50 billion education budget in California.

“Information and data drives where parents send their children to school, allows teachers to better understand and respond to the needs of their students and affects what policies elected officials pursue,” said Governor Schwarzenegger in a statement.  “A comprehensive education data system is essential for the future of California’s education system - and having access to such information is essential to ensuring parents can make better informed decisions about their children’s education.”

“Right now, we have a lot of unanswered questions about what works in education,” said Simitian.  “For example, we don’t know whether smaller class sizes actually improve student achievement, but we continue to invest in it.  Does teacher training pay off in the classroom?  We think so, but we really don’t know.”

“Anecdotes alone don’t tell us what we need to know,” said Simitian.  “And when I tell my Silicon Valley constituents that California really doesn’t have a statewide education database, they just shake their heads in disbelief.”

Simitian described the “politics of education data” as “both challenging and frustrating.  Most Republican legislators declined to support the bill because they were worried that good data might show we actually do need more funding to get the job done.  On the other hand, a lot of folks in the education establishment declined to support the bill because good data might shine the light on shortcomings in the system.”

“Fortunately,” said Simitian, “we had a wonderful coalition of children’s advocates and social justice groups who were anxious to make sure our kids were well served, and who partnered with business leaders around the state who were looking to make the system more accountable and effective.”

“Look,” said Simitian, “we’re never going to have all the money we need to educate kids in California.  So whether your first priority is careful use of taxpayer dollars or a first-rate education for our kids, we have know how to spend our limited funds most effectively.” 

Simitian added, “Over the past few years, we’ve invested in several big studies about the state of education in California.  Every single one of them points to the lack of data.  SB 1298 is about providing key data so that we can make smarter, more strategic decisions about how we spend education dollars.”

Specifically, SB 1298 will do three things: (1) calls for a high-level working group to decide the best governance structure for the comprehensive education data system; (2) direct the State Chief Information Office (CIO), in consultation with educators and education policymakers, to prepare a strategy plan outlining a clear path for how to implement the system; and (3) requires the various education segments to begin using a common student identifier, so that once a governance structure and technical architecture are in place, records from pre-K through college can be linked quickly and easily.

“SB 1298 is the necessary next step to improve our public schools,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now.  “Continuous improvement efforts, instructional advances and smart policy decisions begin with better information.  I commend Senator Simitian, legislative leaders and Governor Schwarzenegger for the systemic advancements enabled by this important legislation – inclusive of a seamless approach to early childhood through higher education.”

Simitian’s SB 1298 has a companion bill, SB 1425 by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), which would create a process for reviewing and responding to requests for non-identifiable student information contained in California’s emerging student data system called the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System or CalPADS.

This is Simitian’s third and most ambitious foray into the world of education data.  His first, SB 687 (2005), increased the information that school districts share in their annual School Accountability Report Cards (SARC) about school spending per school site, including how much they spend per student.  His second effort, SB 1614 (2006), created a comprehensive statewide teacher workforce database that will reveal such information as how many math, science, and special education teachers there are in California or how many teachers our schools will need in the future.  Now, with the passage of SB 1298, the stage is set for the development of a comprehensive statewide system.

To learn more about SB 1298, visit