California Competes Testifies at Key Bill Hearings

by California Competes

Topics: Data Systems, Governance, Public Agenda, State Coordination

California Competes staff provided witness testimony this week on three key bills being considered by the California State Legislature. On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, Interim Executive Director Ria Sengupta Bhatt testified on Senate Bill 2, which would convene a review committee to advise on the Statewide Longitudinal Student Database. During the same hearing, Policy and Research Analyst Taylor Myers testified on Senate Bill 3, which would establish the Office of Higher Education Coordination, Accountability, and Performance. On Tuesday, April 2, 2019, Ms. Bhatt provided testimony on Assembly Bill 130, which would establish the Higher Education Performance and Accountability Commission.

All three bills passed out of of committee.

State Senate Education Committee Hearing: Senate Bill 2 (Glazer)

Interim Executive Director Ria Sengupta Bhatt at the State Capitol on April 3, 2019

A myriad of options lay before policymakers to better serve students and families, but California’s decisionmakers are acting in an information vacuum.

The state has a very limited ability to diagnose its challenges in education, invest wisely in solutions, and then comprehensively assess the impacts of those investments. Without a fully integrated, top to bottom data infrastructure, California’s leaders lack the information they need to best serve students, workers, and the economy.

California Competes supports SB 2 because systematically integrating data from preschool to workforce is a key step for California to modernize the education sector. This bill is essential because for some Californians, the path from education to employment is a direct line from high school to college to a job. But for most, the path is not that simple.

The lack of comprehensive data prevents policymakers from pinpointing where Californians fall through the cracks of the education-to-employment pipeline; how that varies by race, gender, region, and income; and most importantly, why it happens.

It is mind-boggling that our state cannot answer seemingly fundamental questions like, “In a given year, how many California high school graduates enrolled in college the next fall?” because the K-12 and college data systems do not fully talk to one another. SB 2 takes the necessary step of tasking a committee to identify ways to answer this and many other essential questions about Californians’ experiences and develop a streamlined plan for collecting, measuring, and reporting individual-level metrics in one place.

The CDE, California Community Colleges, CSU, UC, CSAC, and the Employment Development Department each independently hold rich data, but this segmented approach limits understanding of how the education and workforce systems complement one another. SB 2 creates an infrastructure to make these data actionable for the purposes of improving outcomes and reducing disparities. It also addresses issues that often arise in conversations about data such as privacy and public access.

It is an exciting time to consider the potential for a P-Workforce data system. The need for a longitudinal, cross-sector system is real and immediate because these data should be the bedrock of all substantive, evidence-based policymaking. For California, progress in this area is long overdue.

Read Interim Executive Director Ria Sengupta Bhatt's full testimony.

Watch Ms. Bhatt's testimony on video.

State Senate Education Committee Hearing: Senate Bill 3 (Allen)

Policy and Research Analyst Taylor Myers at the State Capitol on April 3, 2019

Now, more than at any other time since the Master Plan for Higher Education was chartered, the state needs expert leadership to support equitable college access and completion for all Californians.

While the segments have made important efforts to address challenges in higher education such as affordability, access, and time-to-degree, fundamentally, these are systemic problems that transcend any one institution or segment, and they require systemic solutions.

Specifically, Senate Bill 3 creates the infrastructure to develop statewide higher education goals; to oversee interagency efforts; and to promote evidence-based policymaking by using data across education and workforce sectors. Further, SB 3 carefully thinks through the appropriate roles of key stakeholders, creating an advisory board with student and segment representatives. These functions will improve outcomes across diverse regions and student populations.

Read Policy and Research Analyst Taylor Myers’ full testimony.

Watch Ms. Myers’ testimony on video.

California State Assembly Committee on Higher Education: Assembly Bill 130 (Low)

Ms. Bhatt at the State Capitol on April 2, 2019

California Competes has long supported greater oversight and coordination in higher education.

The state increasingly faces critical postsecondary challenges including rising costs, untenable capacity constraints, and inequitable outcomes. As a result, college is less accessible and less likely to improve economic mobility for Californians. No segment or governing body is charged with addressing these challenges in whole.

Currently the state has a system of parts—the California Community Colleges, the California State University, and the University of California—operating in silos with no single entity to help plan, drive, and evaluate statewide efforts to improve student success.

A coordinating body would build upon the progress already being made by the segments and accelerate systemic change.

The Higher Education Performance and Accountability Commission established by AB 130 could take a statewide approach to addressing issues such as institutional capacity and supporting cross-sector initiatives such as dual enrollment and transfer programs. An independent body advising on the condition of higher education statewide is imperative to provide the student-focused leadership necessary to address challenges cohesively. California’s students deserve such a Commission to serve as their advocate.

Read Ria Sengupta Bhatt’s full testimony.