California ranks in the bottom four states in per-student spending. In order to level its spending with the rest of the country, the state would have to spend $17.3 billion more, which equals a 32.1% budget increase.
An analysis by the California Budget Project shows the serious situation of the state school system right in the midst of a budget crisis. Proposition 98, whose goal was ensuring a minimum level of funding for schools and community colleges, has not prevented serious budget cuts in schools.
As if that were not enough, within the state itself, there is inequality in the amount of money different school districts spend per student. This resource disparity has an even far more adverse impact on urban school districts such as Los Angeles, which must deal with students learning English, more frequent staff changes and additional expenses like security and dropout prevention measures.
California’s school outlook is even worse if we take into account that the state is at the bottom of the rankings in the number of students per teacher, next to last in the number of guidance counselors per student, and number 46 in the number of students per administrator.
Two lawsuits are demanding a change in the state education funding formula. This change will be important, but it will take more than money to fix the system.
A $17 billion increase to put the per-student investment on a level footing with other states is out of the question. The challenge is how to reform the system to correct the shortcomings while staying within the state’s budget reality.