Coming Soon to a School Near You?

March 30, 2010

We recently blogged that California’s K-12 education spending dropped by more than $1,000 per student between 2007-08 and 2009-10. Governor Schwarzenegger’s Proposed 2010-11 Budget would cut school funding by an additional $2.7 billion – a reduction equivalent to $432 per student. Three new CBP fact sheets released today document the local impact of the Governor’s K-12 education proposals. Our analyses – by school district, county office of education (COE), and county – show how proposed cuts to general operating support for local schools and the COEs that support them would result in significant reductions at the local level. In fact, the total reduction to districts and counties would be deeper, because these analyses exclude the Governor’s proposal to reduce funding for the K-3 Class Size Reduction Program by $890 million since data are not yet available to assess the impact of this reduction at the district level. California faces difficult budget choices this year. However, the Legislature should consider what the proposed cuts would mean for the quality of education in California’s schools.

— Jonathan Kaplan

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Protestors Wise to the Governor’s Claims on Education Spending

March 4, 2010

Why are students, parents, and educators across the state protesting cuts to education when Governor Schwarzenegger claims that his Proposed Budget protects classroom spending? Part of the answer lies in the complex formula used to calculate the Proposition 98 guarantee, the provision in the state’s constitution that guarantees a minimum level of funding for California’s schools and community colleges.

Under the assumptions presented in the Governor’s 2010-11 Proposed Budget, Proposition 98 spending on K-12 education would drop from $50.3 billion in 2007-08 to an estimated $44.1 billion in 2009-10 – a decline of 12.4 percent. The drop in the Proposition 98 guarantee is due in large part to falling state revenues resulting from the continued economic downturn. The Governor claims he is “protecting education.” However, this claim is based on several assumptions that would reduce the minimum funding level required by the Proposition 98 guarantee in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 relative to the funding level required under the assumptions used to develop the budget agreement signed by the Governor in July 2009. In fact, the Legislative Analyst reported recently that under current law, the Proposition 98 guarantee would be $2.2 billion higher in 2009-10 and $3.2 billion higher in 2010-11 than the level provided by the Governor’s 2010-11 Proposed Budget. Under the Governor’s proposal, schools would receive $7,418 per student in 2010-11, nearly $1,500 less than they did in 2007-08, after adjusting for inflation. Maybe that’s why students, parents, and educators protesting today are skeptical about the Governor’s claims.

— Jonathan Kaplan

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Settling the Debate: California Spends Less on Each Student – by Any Measure

February 24, 2010

How does California compare to other states with respect to support for its public schools? Answering that question based on how much the state spends per student has led to a debate. Some rank California near the bottom, while others have placed the state closer to the middle of the pack. The controversy centers on data sources and methods. Historically, California’s per pupil spending ranks relatively poorly when measured by data that adjusts for regional cost differences, but it ranks somewhat higher when those adjustments are not made. Data recently released by the National Education Association (NEA), which are not adjusted for regional cost differences, may quell the controversy.

According to the NEA, California’s K-12 education spending dropped by more than $1,000 per student – 10.6 percent – between 2007-08 and 2009-10. As a result, California’s per pupil spending ranking fell from 34th in the nation in 2007-08 to 45th this year, absent adjustment for regional cost differences. According to the most recent data published by Education Week, which attempts to adjust spending to reflect differences in states’ cost-of-living, California ranked 46th in per pupil spending in 2006-07. It is reasonable to assume that California’s ranking will not improve once Education Week’s cost-adjusted data are updated to 2009-10. This is because the NEA data show that California’s school spending was cut more than other states’ and regional cost differences are likely to have remained largely unchanged.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals could cause the state’s ranking to slip even further. Despite assertions that he is protecting education funding, the Governor’s proposed budget would cut $2.1 billion from K-12 education spending between 2009-10 and 2010-11. Under the Governor’s proposal, 2010-11 K-12 spending would be $6.4 billion – 12.7 percent – lower than in 2007-08. When measured on a per pupil basis, the state would spend less in 2010-11 than it did in 1997-98, after adjusting for inflation. The debate over how California compares to other states with respect to per pupil spending may become less heated, but a question remains: How much should the state spend to ensure that all California students receive a quality education?

— Jonathan Kaplan

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