10/15/10 • In terms of unadjusted state and local spending for education, California ranks 24th in the nation. But adjust spending to account for the regional cost of living, as Education Week does annually, and California’s per student spending falls to 46th in the nation.
Which ranking you cite in debates with colleagues and around the dinner table is usually a giveaway as to where you stand on the need for more K-12 funding. (I tend to go with Ed Week.)
Now, a new study of the state school funding that claims to be the most comprehensive is ranking California in 31st place, with an adjusted spending of $9,030 – $1,102 below the adjusted U.S. average of $10,132 and nearly $7,000 below top-ranked Wyoming.
“Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,”[http://bit.ly/bksBMI] funded by the Ford Foundation, used 2007 figures, which predated the recession, though the authors – a Rutgers professor and two researchers from the Education Law Center in Newark – said little changed in a post-study update for 2008.
Like Education Week, “Is School Funding Fair?” adjusted spending calculations to incorporate regional wages, but it also factored in population density, extent of a state’s poverty, and economies of scale (district size).
The study also looked at three other measures to determine fairness in state funding, which it defined as ensuring equal opportunity by sufficiently funding districts to meet the needs of students in poverty. (It assumed that the poverty was also an accurate indicator of other needs, such as those of English learners.)
The other measures were funding distribution (whether more money is disbursed to districts with higher proportions of poor students), effort (how much the state spends relative to its capacity to tax), and a new measure, “coverage” (the percentage of children who attend public vs. parochial and private schools, which the authors claim also is an indicator of funding relative to student poverty).
Rob Manwaring, a former K-12 education director for the California Legislative Analyst’s Office and now a senior policy analyst with the nonpartisan Education Sector, praised the report for bringing together data from different sources. “They did a great job of organizing a lot of different measures and putting them into one place,” he told Education Week.
In none of the measures did California fare well.
Distribution: This is the most important factor, next to amount of spending. California got a C, measuring the difference in per student funding between districts with the lowest percentage of poor students and highest poverty districts. There’s only a 3 percent difference: $287.
“In a state that likes to think of itself as progressive,” Manwaring said, “this is not the type of equity that California should want.”
Oddly enough, Utah, which spends among the least in overall student funding, ranked highest in directing dollars to districts with the poorest students (a $2,900 difference between rich and poor districts). Eighteen states ranked above California. New Hampshire, which funds schools almost entirely on property taxes, is the most regressive, with districts with the highest numbers of poor students getting about $4,700 less per student than districts with very few poor students. New York, which just went through a huge equity suit, was surprisingly among the least progressive.
Effort: California squeaked by with a D, just above the 13 states, including Oregon and Washington, with F’s. This particular measure used per capita gross domestic product, a measure of economic output. Other studies define effort as school spending as a percentage of per capita income; by that measure, California is near the bottom as well.
Coverage: This measure combined the percentage of 16-year-olds in public schools (89.2 percent in California) with the household income differences between public and private school students (public school families earn about half as much as private school families). California ranked 32nd. The authors assume the flight of wealthy families from public schools is a sign of willingness to equitably fund public schools.
Six states received good or excellent ratings on all four measures: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wyoming. Four states bombed on all four: Louisiana, North Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri.
The report does not present evidence that more equitable funding improves student achievement. That, it said, should the the subject of a future report.
The report does argue that the federal government should revise its definition of poverty, which disadvantages high-cost states like California and New York. Uniformly applied to all states, poverty is defined as under $20,000 income for a family of four. For students to qualify for the federal free and reduced school lunch program, the family of four cannot earn more than $37,000. If the regional cost of rental housing and other expenses were factored in, California’s child poverty rate would rise from 16 to 24 percent, according to the study.
from the report | http://bit.ly/9qxIN7
the entire report: http://bit.ly/bksBMI