Education Week’s finance issue came out recently and the bad news—California was fifth from last in per pupil spending, 46th counting the District of Columbia. The numbers are a few years old, and we have maybe passed Oklahoma over the last couple of years (yee-haw?), but it’s even worse than it seems.
These numbers are not adjusted for cost of living, so in the Bay Area, one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, your money will buy you a lot less than Georgia or Utah. And starting salaries are significantly higher for teachers in CA, so this money goes much faster. We also have higher proportions of children who need more support.
And I hate to gloat, but in NY where we do a lot of work (and starting salaries are relatively close), the funding a school gets for each student is roughly double, and there is significant supplemental funding for high needs students. In CA, the schools tend to absorb these costs themselves, without significant supplemental funding to meet exceptional needs. And planning schools in NY versus CA, the funding there works, and you can basically give students what they need based on state funding. In CA, you need philanthropy for a new school.
CA’s budgeting process has been screwed up by the statewide propositions which have tended to cut and slice the general budget into guaranteed categories—with education getting the lion’s share. And while that share is good, the pie itself is too small because of the now infamous Prop 13, which capped all property taxes (residential and commercial) at unnecessarily low levels. So schools may get half the pie roughly, but it’s a personal pan pizza to be shared by a football team.
We need to aim higher than 46th, and for real funding growth to happen we need to reform Proposition 13. There is a logic to capping taxes for fixed income folks like retirees, or middle class homeowners, but for commercial properties, the market should rule, and similarly for McMansions, they too should kick in their fair share.
If you want to look at the advocacy efforts please join Closetheloophole, or some of the other Proposition 13 reform advocacy groups.
All our problems won’t be solved by throwing money at them, but money well spent is well deserved by CA’s kids.
You can see the table below
|Education spending per
|Education spending per
|District of Columbia||$13,917||$14,087|
|U.S.||Average: $11,735||Average: $11,667|