California’s students face a number of challenges that have been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic.

Low public funding state-wide, compounded over many years, has meant slow growth in learning and educational productivity. Disadvantaged and minority students lag far behind such that there are large inequities across California’s K-12 system. There is a compelling need for reform and for additional investment to address these challenges and to reduce systemic inequities.

This brief summarizes our economic analysis of three specific –and related – issues facing California’s public school system: students’ failure to complete high school, chronic absenteeism, and disciplinary infractions. We identify substantial benefits if there are improvements across any of these domains. Improvements might be general – affecting all students — or they might be targeted – reducing gaps by race or level of disadvantage.