What If


In order to provide new schools that can build better neighborhoods and more livable communities, some changes in planning, policies and practices will be needed. These changes must address the planning of schools and communities as integrated systems rather than independent parts. They must provide for more collaborative and participatory planning and implementation strategies, where the ideas and opinions of parents, students, educators and community representatives are more integral to the planning process.

With respect to the immediate issues of education and rapid growth facing the state over the next twenty years, changes in policies, planning and practices will be needed to:

Support more participatory and community-based planning.

Community-based planning must become one of the standard practices of administrative and review agencies responsible for school planning, design and construction. Authorizing legislation needed to mandate and support these efforts will also be needed.

Support innovative educational facilities that promote the concept of learning communities and schools as centers of community.

More integrative planning strategies must be developed by all agencies and institutions responsible for urban and regional planning. These planning strategies should incorporate methods for identifying and systematically integrating all community needs and assets.

Support the joint use of all public facilities.

Institutional and regulatory barriers, such as legislation involving administrative authority or public safety (such as the Field Act) should be evaluated and modified to provide a wider range of opportunities for the use of all community facilities for educational and other purposes.

Support the planning of urban and suburban projects based on the principles of smart growth.

Provide authorizing legislation to support the land use, housing and transportation principles of smart growth and additional authorizing legislation to promote the planning, design and execution of schools as centers of community.

Support the assessment of all public expenditures based on the concept of Integrated Resource Development.

Develop policies and practices to support more integrated program development and budgeting with assessment tools that encourage and reward a more productive and efficient use of all community resources.

Support the development of an ongoing vehicle for communications and decision-making between all agencies, institutions and organizations involved in education reform and smart growth issues.

Identify or develop a central coordinating institution to manage communications and advocate for more integrated planning and design of all state, regional and local community resources. A first step could be convening a statewide summit to bring together education reform and smart growth leaders to craft a common agenda and an implementation strategy.

California has an unprecedented opportunity to consolidate and integrate the design and maintenance of community infrastructure to maximize the use of all community resources. The development of an institutional framework that can support more systemic and ecological goals is the challenge for planners and visionary leaders. But, at best, planners can only hope to facilitate and guide the process. A community wide interdependent living and learning environment that is developed and sustained by its constituents is at the core of an ongoing evolution of the American democratic vision.