Installment 16: Audio & Video Transcripts

Clip 1 (Audio): Mike Kirst: We both “began to dig directly into how you improve instruction…And with that was learned the lesson of quote ‘humility.’”

(Stanford Emeriti Council presentation, “Michael Kirst ‘Autobiographical Reflections,’” Published February 5, 2015, 1 minute, 33 seconds)



Mike Kirst: The best thing that happened for the both of us was for him to be mayor of Oakland. He did not know a lot about education in the first term. He’d been to Catholic schools: St. Ignatius High, then directly to the seminary, then to Santa Clara University, and finished at Berkeley.

So, he really got the trial by fire with the Oakland Public Schools.

So, early on I began working with him, and he formed a mayor’s task force on education. And our view was–and what we recommended to him—was that he should take over the schools as mayor. This thing was really falling apart—they [the public schools] were running huge deficits and so on.

So, he tried to do that, and he couldn’t get it through the Oakland City Council, and [the public schools] were taken over by the state and a state trustee. I could see that coming.

So, the governor then also began to move in charter schools. So, he created his own schools and got them charters from the state. He created a military academy with the National Guard and an art school. So, he began to dig directly, as we both did, into how you improve instruction.

There was progress made. These schools are pretty good. They’re not as good as hoped. And with that was learned the lesson of quote ‘humility’.


Clip 2 (Audio): Mike Kirst: “I learned a lot from my colleagues…”

(Dick Jung interview with Mike Kirst, November 1, 2021, 45 seconds)


Mike Kirst: Yeah, I would say CPRE, that’s where I learned a lot from the CPRE people I worked with who were more into the bottom up and to reform from the inside out and more sophisticated than I was when I began at CPRE on improving classroom instruction. And that was a time of intensive colleagueship among the people. It just gave me so much more contact.

Dick Jung: So, it’s CPRE and your experience with [Jerry] Brown in Oakland, those are tied in your mind together? 

Mike Kirst: Yes, they are. I later began a project with CPRE about mayors.


Clip 3 (Audio): Susan Fuhrman: “We were engaged in a study…”

(Dick Jung interview with Susan Fuhrman, October 12, 2018, 58 seconds)


Susan Fuhrman:  We were engaged in a study of reform because we were actually funded to look at the state education reforms in the eighties which were becoming so prominent. And state policymaker groups like NGA (National Governors’ Association) and NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) had argued for the formation of such a center to study how different states were approaching these reforms. They were often huge packages of reforms in the eighties.

Our Chair, Governor Riley, had a big reform in South Carolina, but there were many such states which had these packages. Florida is another example. We undertook a study–we’ve called it the “Core Study” ever since because one version of it or another has persisted in CPRE until quite recently. It’s been looking at how various states approach reform and how those reforms actually played out into what effect. And Mike was in the group of us who were studying various states.


Clip 4 (Video): Panel Moderator, Moira Gunn, asking Mike about the state of California funding for public schools in 2010, at the Innovation Panel meeting on March 30, 2010.

(2 minute and 4 second excerpt from YouTube video of the meeting)


Moira Gunn: We can have all of these goals and all this experience, but the bottom line is you’veve got to have the money to operate. Mike, you’re tapped into a lot of where California stands in terms of finances visa-vis education, right? 

Mike Kirst: Yes, it’s really difficult. And our infrastructure is just fading away.

I was the President of the State Board of Education when Proposition 13 passed. And so, I saw tough times. And we haven’t hit the bottom yet from the projections. We’re cutting school time and days. And probably will go down to five periods in lots of schools. And we’re not out of it yet.

If you adjust for our costs in California, and it costs here a lot more to run a school than it does in Arkansas, for example. We’re somewhere around 44th in spending (compared to other states). But that was before we took all these hits.

So, we’re really suffering from a lack of a financial base. The secret of these other states is in most cases they can get to local citizens to raise local property tax and they raise it around their interests. California is heavily reliant on income tax at the state level.

I don’t see that we have any fundamental strategy to get out of the fiscal box we’re in. So, we have this sort of odd debate to me which is, you know, I read the clips about California every day. And at the top level, is all this discussion of things like Race to the Top which I have just finished being a state reviewer for, and that’s talking about things such as turn-around schools, and data, and new interventions, and all this sort of thing.

And then the bottom line is all these school districts just cutting away at the core of their operations. Now, they’re beyond cutting the counselors—they’re finished. Librarians are done—we’re finished with them. We got rid of music a long time ago. So, we’re down to the core.


Clip 5 (Video): John Fensterwald narrator, “The Ginny Chronicles,”

(EdSource July 19, 2021, 44 seconds)

John Fensterwald, narrator: [Speaking of funding for schools in California in the early 2000s]: How bad was it?  Consider Proposition 98, the formula that California uses to determine the portion of state revenue goes to K-12 schools and community colleges, it fell 13 percent in the year before you started school (in 2007).

There are always opportunities in crisis, Stanford professor, Michael Kirst, looked at the disaster and said we can fund schools better and fairer. Around 2008 he co-authored a study that was to shake things up. The idea seemed radical then–to create an equitable way to distribute money and give districts more control over how to spend it.

The study didn’t get much attention or traction at the time. It would take some years and a new governor before it became what we have today.


Clip 6 (Audio): Mike Kist, “Then comes…what I’m going to call the ‘K-16 Era.'”

(Stanford Emeriti Council presentation, “Michael Kirst ‘Autobiographical Reflections,’” Published February 5, 2015, 40 seconds)


Mike Kirst: Then comes Phase Six, which I’m going to call the “K-16 Era.” All during this career, I was wondering about why K-12 and higher ed are so separate. If you go to a K-12 educator meeting, you’ll rarely see anybody there who’s an administrator or policymaker for higher ed. We were in like we’re two separate worlds. And my theory was this has got to be hurting students. And so as I began looking at it, my focus was what is called the “broad access post-secondary education.”


Clip 7 (Audio): Mike Kirst: “The problem in American Higher education…”

(Dick Jung interview with Mike Kirst, January 14, 2022, 45 seconds)


Mike Kirst: [Speaking of Mike Usdan and himself]: We had both been influenced by a book that was called College for Forgotten Americans. Wonderful book…

Anyway, I was interested in the college for forgotten Americans. So, the niche was really, what we call “broad access higher education.” And so, I began to say, you know, that’s where the action is, that’s where we’ve got to look, that’s where the high school preparation problems are.

I’m not going to, you know, wring my hands about who doesn’t get into Stanford or Vanderbilt or something. These are trivial issues. The problem in American higher education is in broad access, including community colleges.


Clip 8 (Video): Mike Kirst introducing Kantor being nominated symposium

(2009, 27 seconds)

Mike Kirst: The community colleges take the top hundred one percent of students in America. They educate in California eighty percent of the Latino population. There are more African Americans in California in four community colleges than there are in the University of California system. And last year fifty percent of our first-year students in the United States were in community colleges.

Clip 9 (Audio): Mike Kirst, “With funding from the Atlantic…”

(Dick Jung interview with Mike Kirst, January 14, 2022, 36 seconds)


This guy (Chuck Feeney) who went to Cornell, he founded all of the duty-free shops and had a fortune. And he gave a lot of it away to higher education. And so, I wrote a large grant proposal to them and got funded.

And I was then able to hire Andrea (Venezia). I was off to the races–with their big grant.

And so, I began to conceive of how to approach the field. And I think the publications speak to the way it went.


Clip 10 (Audio): Mike Kirst,  “It was one of the earliest…”

(Dick Jung interview with Mike Kirst, January 14, 2022, 50 seconds)


Mike Kirst: Oh, and I’ll never forget. This is our big breakthrough. It’s called the Bridge Project that we headed. And at the end of it, we decided to write a monograph called “Betraying the College Dream: How Disconnected K-12 and Higher Education Systems Undermine Student Aspirations.” And we rented the Press Club in Washington D.C.

It was one of the earliest publications that was web-based.  And it had a fancy cover, and we printed a lot in color. And we got incredible amounts of downloads–tens of thousands. I was like, what? It was amazing. And so that was the signal shot. And it launched us as a big-time, big-visibility operation. And then more funding came in after that.


Clip 11 (Audio): Andrea Venezia: “I just pounded it into…”

(Dick Jung interview with Andrea Venezia,  September 19, 2018, 40 seconds)


Andrea Venezia: [Speaking of Mike Kirst] He makes everything accessible. He has the best soundbites and he really humanizes issues and conversations. He has such a good way of having those really quick rejoinders that are funny and meaningful because it’s not too academic; he’s just that rare bird. We just need people like Mike who can be a boundary crosser and who can speak in regular language to people and explain things without having all the answers…

I run this Education Policy Fellowship Program now for the state where Mike is the exemplar for me. And I just hammer it into the Fellows all the time: “Be like Mike.”