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Education in California facts for kids

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The educational system in California consists of public and private schools in the U.S. state of California, including the public University of California, California State University, and California Community Colleges systems, private colleges and universities, and public and private elementary, middle, and high schools.


In the Spanish colonial California, a prerequisite for promotion above the rank of corporal and the core criteria for promotion beyond, coupled with honesty, was literacy. This formed an incentive to both learn to read and write for oneself and provide this for one's children through whatever means possible. The Spanish policy at the time, as a means of controlling their citizens, was in opposition to popular education. The first recorded school in California was opened in 1795 by Manuel de Vargas, a retired sergeant, in San Diego. Small schools taught by retired soldiers continued to operate through the revolution years and independence from Spain in 1821. A few school teachers are known by name during this time, one is José Antonio Carrillo.

Attempts were made to import educators to California from elsewhere in New Spain. Though at that time, fairly serious prison sentences were commuted in exchange for immigrating to California. Governor Pablo Vicente de Solá made education a core priority. After requests for government funds for school teachers went unanswered, he used his own wealth to fund a fellowship for two Spanish professors to establish a high school in Monterey. After several weeks they concluded life in California as unbearable and left. Subsequent governors continued to address the education issue but failed to gain traction for higher education. The first truancy law was issued in 1828 by Governor José María de Echeandía, ordered the commanding officers to compel parents to send their children to the schools which he had established. In 1829, throughout Alta California, there were 339 students in 11 primary schools. During this time a noted educator in San Diego was Friar Antonio Menendez and his 18 pupils. Private schools operated throughout this time. An example was opened by Don Guillermo Arnel near present-day Salinas on December 10, 1833 on his plantation Rancho El Alisal. He named his university preparatory school "El Seminario del Patrocinio de San Jose" or "Colegio de San Jose". For the following 20 years of Mexican administration the public school system ebbed and flowed. At times there were few schools operating due to a revolving lack of funds, lack of interest, politics, and lack of educators.

In 1847 the governance of California changed to the United States of America. At the time of the transfer there were a few hundred literate residents in the state out of a population of 26,000 for a 2% literacy rate.There were now funds available if the school existed. The details of this took time to work out, but from 1854 onwards there was a steady public education system present throughout the state of California. Attendance was not compulsory or universal, for example, in San Diego attendance hovered at 25%. The classes taught at the primary level were orthography, reading, writing, grammar, geography, arithmetic, algebra, history, French, and Spanish. From this foundation the California education system expanded to form secondary schools, and institutions of higher learning. The first of these colleges was Minns' Evening Normal School founded in 1857. A teaching college established by the San Francisco city's high school system to educate their teachers. Later this college became San Jose State University.


California is the most populous state of the U.S. and has the most school students, with over 6.2 million in the 2005–06 school year, giving California more students in school than 36 states have in total population and one of the highest projected enrollments in the country. About 25% of school students are English learners, compared to 9% nationally. Funding and staffing levels in California schools lag behind other states. In expenditure per pupil, California ranked 15th of the 50 states and District of Columbia in 2005–06. In teaching staff expenditure per pupil, California ranked 49th of 51. In overall teacher-pupil ratio, California was also 49th, with 21 students per teacher. Only Arizona and Utah were lower. One of the biggest problems in the California school system is the high level of high school dropouts, especially among minority students. Approximately 22% of African Americans and Hispanic Californians are living in poverty and only 68% of students living below the poverty line will graduate from high school. The state of California has in place the Dropout Recovery and Prevention Act (SB 65) as a governmental way of dealing with the high dropout rate in California. It was implemented in 1985 and was expanded in 2004 due to its success in lowering the state’s dropout rate. Senate Bill 65 initiated three new dropout prevention efforts: the Pupil Motivation and Maintenance Program, the Alternative Education Outreach Consultant (AEOC) Program, and the Educational Clinic Program.

According to Governor Jerry Brown in 2014, "almost 30% are either undocumented or don't speak English."

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