It’s about money and more

California's investment per student is among the lowest
It’s about money and more

The lack of funding for education is a serious issue in California. But if we compare the amount of money our state invests per student with the rest of the country, we can appreciate the magnitude of the challenge for our school system.

A Census Bureau analysis released yesterday about public education finances shows that in 2010, our state was number 35 in the country, spending $9,375 per student in K-12 education. The ones who invest the most are the District of Columbia and New York, with $18,667 and $18,618 respectively; the national average is $10,615.

The study also showed the impact of the economic crisis on California. Our state is one of only three to have reduced the amount of money it invests per student twice in a row during the 2008–2010 period. At the same time, it is the one that has made the largest cuts in the country percentage-wise.

Undoubtedly, this is a powerful argument in favor of this November’s ballot initiatives, which propose tax hikes to collect more funds for education. The contraction of the economy reduced the tax base, which led to a decrease in the amount of money invested per student. If voters approve the initiatives, it will really help.

Money is important, but it is only part of the challenge California’s school system is facing.

Our state is the most populous in the nation, and its more than 6 million students are by far the country’s largest K-12 school system. This means that, for example, to get on a par with New York ($18,680 per student for 2.7 million students), we would have to invest an unrealistic amount in state education.

No one doubts that it is necessary to stabilize the source of income for schools and increase the amount of money earmarked per student. But it could hardly reach the level of other states. Therefore, the issue is not only obtaining the funds but using them more efficiently and appropriately, so they can have the most impact on students.