Friday, July 02, 2010

Budget Report: RACE TO THE BOTTOM? California’s three decades of underfunding education + School spending falls further behind rest of nation +report

By John Fensterwald | The Educated Guess

July 2nd, 2010 -- A new report by the California Budget Project – “Race to the Bottom? California’s Support for Schools Lags the Nation” [follows]– underscores what’s at stake in the coming battle  between Gov. Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders on state education spending, a key difference in the stalemate over the state budget.

The report tracks 30 years of underfunding K-12 schools. Its conclusion: “The spending gap (between California and other states) widened after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, narrowed from the late 1990s through 2001-02, and has grown substantially since 2006-07.”

Many of the data points on expenditures are familiar:

  • California ranked 44th among the 50 states in K-12 spending in 2009-10, according to the National Education Association’s calculations. (Education Week, which factors in cost of living, ranks California lower.)
  • California spent  $2,546 less per student than the rest of the nation in 2009-10. It would have to spend $15,4 billion more to reach the national average.
  • The state ranked anywhere between 46th and 50th in terms of the number of K-12 students per teacher, guidance counselor, librarian and administrator.

As Democrats and Republicans get ready to square off once again on new taxes, consider a key measure of effort, what the state spends relative to what it can afford. California ranked 46th in spending as a percentage of personal income, a measure that  reflects the size of  the state’s economy and wealth. In 2008-09, it devoted 3.28 percent  of personal income to K-12 schools, nearly 1 percentage point less than the national average of 4.25 percent. That’s the widest gap in 30 years – a reflection of how hard California’s been whacked in the current recession.

But with the exception of 2001-02, when spending in California  spent 3.9 percent of personal income – 2 tenths percent behind the nation – California has always substantially lagged other states. The height of state spending was 1971-72, at 4 percent of personal income (4.5 percent nationally). Spending plummeted, to 3.4 percent, following the passage of Prop 13 in 1978, bumped along at roughly that level for 20 years before recovering in the dot-com years and falling again in the last four years.

The start of the fiscal year on Thursday found Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders about 10 percent apart on spending for public schools.

According to the California Budget Project, California would have to raise $15. 3 billion more for K-12 schools to reach the national average of 4.25 percent. That’s three times the $5 billion difference between the $54 billion that Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg are calling for in public school spending and what Schwarzenegger has proposed.

Democrats are calling for an extraction tax on oil and the rescission of corporate tax breaks the Legislature passed last year. So far, no Republicans have indicated they’d go along.


School spending falls further behind rest of nation

Louis Freedberg - California WatchBlog

July 2, 2010 | California continues to fall behind other states when it comes to school funding.

Just how far? California now ranks 44th in how much it spends on its students – or $2,546 less than the average spent in the rest of the United States. That's the lowest it has been in 40 years compared to other states, in a depressing report from the California Budget Project.

<<Flickr photo by Woodley Wonderworks

The report calculates that just to bring California to the national average would require an extra $15.4 billion in spending – an increase of 29.5 percent. Those numbers underscore the impossibility of California catching up to the rest of the nation within any reasonable time period – if ever.

In fact, if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has his way, California will fall even further behind the rest of the nation during the coming fiscal year.

Schwarzenegger is proposing to cut the basic amount school districts get for every student in attendance to $7,417, an 11 percent drop from $8,423 just two years ago (2008-09), according to a report by the legislative analyst's office

The report also provides some ammuniton for those pushing back against GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's assertion that 40 percent of education dollars don't make it into the classroom. The implication is that the funds are going to pay bureaucrats and other expenses extraneous to the educational process.

In fact, California has a lower proportion of administrators compared to all but three other states. According to the California Budget Project report, California schools average 358 students per administrator – far below the 216 students per administrator in the rest of the United States. California also spends a greater share of its education dollars on instruction and student services than do schools in the rest of the U.S. – 95.3 cents of every education dollar, compared to 93.8 cents in the rest of the United States. 

By contrast, California spends 4.7 cents on each K-12 dollar on administration, food services and other expenses, while the rest of the country spends 6.2 cents on these same expenses.

In one arena, California has managed to find itself dead last in the nation: the number of librarians per K-12 student. California has one librarian for every 5,038 students – a ratio six times worse than the U.S. at a whole, which averages one librarian for every 809 students.

That was the ratio in 2007-08, the last year for which figures for librarians are available. As schools cut a range of school personnel even more deeply, even as California tries to motivate students to become literate, the state has nowhere further to fall, at least in rankings relative to other states.


Race to the Bottom: CBP Report |

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