California funding of public education hits all-time low
October 17, 2011
Government support of public education in the Golden State has dropped to a historic low, compared to the rest of the country, according to a new report by the California Budget Project. [California Watch]
California ranks 46th in the U.S. in K-12 spending per student. It spent $2,856 less per student in 2010-11 than did the rest of the nation – a spending gap that is four times wider than it was a decade earlier, when the state lagged behind by $691 per student.
While it’s debatable whether more spending means better schools, it’s clear that sharp declines in California’s general fund revenue, particularly since the 2007-08 fiscal year, have left schools strapped for resources, said Jonathan Kaplan, senior policy analyst at the project and author of the report.
“A decade of disinvestment has left California’s spending for public schools lagging the nation by a number of measures,” states the report. “The Proposition 98 guarantee, designed to ensure a minimum level of funding for California’s schools and community colleges, has not prevented significant cuts to the resources available to schools. Lawmakers have repeatedly cut state spending in recent years in response to the dramatic decline in revenues caused by the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s. As a result, 2010-11 estimated General Fund spending was lower as a share of the state’s economy than in 35 of the prior 40 years. Recent cuts have reversed longstanding policies and have left public systems and programs ill-equipped to cope with the ongoing impact of the Great Recession and the challenges of a growing population and an ever-more-competitive global economy.”
The figures are concerning because California has more students and greater challenges than other states, Kaplan said. The state has the most English-language learners in the country and large numbers of low-income families – nearly 57 percent of California students were eligible for free or reduced-price meals in 2010-11.
“California’s population is more challenging to teach, and yet we are consistently spending less than other states to go about addressing those specific needs,” Kaplan said. “The fact that there are more students per teacher in California classrooms than any other state in the nation means there’s less attention that can be placed on students with particular needs.”
The spending per student for San Luis Obispo County school districts in 2010:
Atascadero School District $7,135
Cayucos District $10,493
Coast Unified District $13,775
Lucia Mar Unified $7,406
Paso Robles Joint Unified $7,843
Pleasant Valley Joint Union Elementary $9,010
San Luis Coastal Unified $8,234
San Miguel Joint Union Elementary School District $7,629
Shandon Joint Unified $8,234
Templeton Unified School District $6,903