California School Spending: Winning the Race to the Bottom?

California schools are falling behind the rest of the nation, according to data recently released by the National Education Association. As a result of past cuts, California’s K-12 education spending dropped by more than $1,000 per student (10.2 percent) between 2008-09 and 2010-11 at the same time that US per student spending increased by nearly $550 (5.0 percent). This year, California ranks 47th in the nation in per pupil spending compared to ranking 35th in 2008-09.

Governor Brown’s Proposed 2011-12 Budget essentially “flat funds” K-12 education. However, the Governor’s funding level assumes that voters and lawmakers approve the Governor’s tax plan. Without the revenues raised by the Governor’s tax plan, the Proposition 98 minimum funding guarantee would fall by $2 billion in 2011-12 – equivalent to approximately $300 per K-12 student. If the Legislature and voters reject the Governor’s proposed tax plan and lawmakers chose to make up for lost revenues with across-the-board cuts, the reduction to K-12 education would be approximately $5.6 billion – more than $930 per student. Absent additional revenues, California could fall further toward the bottom in per student spending.

— Jonathan Kaplan

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