ED100 Breakdown: Module 8

Hello! Thank you for reading today while I review one of the last few lessons on ED100. For those of you who are new here I have been discussing the main points that ED100, a free online guide to California’s education system, has highlighted in each of its ten lessons. The 8th lesson talks about something we almost all love to have but hate to deal with: money. As we all know, schools need money to function well and a well-functioning school usually produces the most successful students. So let’s get started…

Continuing with the bleak theme of California lagging behind in the education department,, the state falls behind most others when it comes to funding schools. Yes, it is true that CA invests just as much money per student as other states. However, the purchasing power of the dollar is much less in CA, so schools get less. Studies have shown that school spending per student directly correlates with how well students do in class. Additional studies have estimated that CA would have to increase expenditure by 38% in order to allow all students to succeed in school. So why is CA doing poorly when it comes to funding education? Don’t we have really high taxes for a reason? For one, CA has many more students per taxpayer. Experts also believe CA simply doesn’t place enough value in education to fund it properly.

According to the state budget, more than half of school spending goes towards instruction. And instruction is not cheap. Teachers cost more in CA than in almost every other state. To make matters worse, the student to teacher ratio in CA is incredibly high as well, burdening teachers and preventing students from reaching maximum potential. Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. CA also has much higher student to counselor ratios and student to librarian ratios simply because schools cannot afford the additional staff.

Ok, so we’ve established that CA is skimping on its public education funding. Let’s get into some of the details to see how this came to be. Before the 1970s, most of school funds came from local taxes such as property taxes. There were some issues with this system, one being that rich communities did well while poorer communities suffered. Then came Prop 13. Prop 13, the taxpayer’s “revolt” to stop rising property taxes, prevented the state from increasing property taxes based off of rising property value. It changed the system so that education funds now came from the state rather than through local taxes such as the property tax. Although this solved the inequality problem, it gave the state the opportunity to skimp on education funding. Not to mention that planning school budgets was already difficult due to the volatility created by funds provided mostly from state income tax. Fortunately, the voters recognized this and Prop 98 was passed. Prop 98 forced Sacramento to spend more on K-12 schools and community colleges.

Fast forward to 2013 and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is made. This formula told the state that school funding should not be exactly equal; rather, schools with “higher needs” should be allocated more money since they have more expenses. Higher needs includes schools with many “english learners”, students in poverty, excess number of students, schools with higher grade levels, etc. In essence, the LCFF says the state has to give more money to the needy districts and the districts have to give more money to the needy schools. Previously, the allocation system was very complex and schools that really needed the money were often passed over. Who enforces this allocation? It is up to community leaders such as parents on PTA, teachers, principals, and any other concerned community member to be engaged in their local educational system and to enforce the law if they see the LCFF being misused.

As you can see, CA does have many tough issues when it comes to funding public education, but at least we have been making some remedies that appear to be pointing us in the right direction. ED100 points out an interesting observation with regards to CA voting habits: voters want more money going to education as long as they don’t have to pay for it. So if state income taxes aren’t going to increase, where will the money come from? These are difficult questions but ones that we can’t look over because of the crucial importance of student success in our state and our country. Thanks for reading this blog! As always I encourage you to explore ED100 yourself by clicking on the hyperlink in the first paragraph. Stay on the lookout for more blog posts and follow us on social media if you’re interested in watching our entertaining DIY science videos.  

Michael LeoneComment