With 90 percent of lawmakers holding at least a bachelor's degree, California has the most highly educated Legislature in the country, according to a study being published today by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The study compared education levels of all 50 state legislatures and found that Arkansas has the least-educated statehouse 25 percent of its members did not attend college at all.
Other findings on the education of California's lawmakers:
84 percent went to a public college.
59 percent got their degrees in California.
20 percent have a law degree.
13 percent went to a community college.
The relatively high level of education among California legislators is likely explained by the fact that the state has large districts, a full-time Legislature and high salaries for lawmakers, said Scott Smallwood, managing editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
"It's a more professional job and they're more likely to be highly educated," he said.
The educational makeup of California's Legislature makes it more like Congress than many other statehouses, Smallwood said. His report says 94 percent of congressional members have at least a bachelor's degree.
The report did not show a strong relationship between lawmakers' education levels and their decisions about financial support for public education.
For example, even though many California lawmakers are alumni of the state's colleges and universities, they voted to cut higher-education funding by $1.4 billion in the upcoming year.
"It doesn't always play out the way you would expect," said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
"If you look at the economic environment in California, how (lawmakers) feel about higher education doesn't really impact how much money they have to spend."
Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said his group is working on a study of how term limits have changed the makeup of California's Legislature. He found that since 1990, the Legislature has, overall, become more highly educated. But, he said, the percentage of lawyers in the Legislature has gone down.
The states with the highest percentage of lawmakers who have at least a bachelor's degree:
New York 87%
The states with the highest percentage of lawmakers who have not attended college:
South Dakota 16%