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Is Gov. Brown Right to Dole Out Money to Schools Unequally?

Compare per student funding for Martinez and Mount Diablo unified school districts.

This is what California public education looks like after the Great Recession: 

Between 2007 and 2010, the number of teachers in the state's K-12 classrooms shrank by 11 percent. Reading specialists, librarians, and other school employees helping students learn declined by 14 percent. Front offices took the hardest blow, with the number of administrators dropping by 16 percent. All these cuts hit schools even as the total enrollment held steady at around 6.2 million students. 

Now that California is looking at its first budget without a deficit in five years, Gov. Jerry Brown's budget calls for restoring some money to the state's public schools. But he does not want to distribute the money equally.

"Aristotle said, 'Treating unequals equally is not justice.' And people are in different situations. Growing up in Compton or Richmond is not like it is to grow up in Los Gatos or Beverly Hills or Piedmont," Brown said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

George Skelton, the Los Angeles Times columnist in Sacramento, blasted Brown ed spending plan on Monday. He says: "Robbing Peter in the suburbs to pay Paul in the inner city seems politically perilous. Even unjust."

Brown wants to give more money to schools serving poor students, English language learners and children in foster care. 

There are already big differences in the sums school districts get from the state. 

Consider two communities Brown mentioned, Piedmont and Richmond. In the 2010-11 school year, Piedmont received $12,287 for every student. The West Contra Costa Unified School District, which includes Richmond, received $9,735 per student. 

But only $3,300 of Piedmont’s revenue came from the state. That’s about a third less than the average unified school district gets from Sacramento. West Contra Costa Unified School District received $5,600 per student from the state, which is more than the statewide average. 

Here’s how Piedmont made up the difference and then some: The $9.1 million that Piedmont raised that school year in parcel taxes was 7,589 percent higher than the statewide average.

Brown’s spending plan has a $3 billion more than last year for K-12 and community colleges, will that be enough to bridge the funding gap that contributes to the achievement gap, and ultimately becomes a cycle-reinforcing income gap? Does more money improve student performance? 

 

Martinez Unified Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student % of average for unified school districts State Aid $1,345 39% Local Sources $4,011 206% Federal Revenue $463 42% Other State Revenue $1,633 82% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $781 147% Total $8,233 91%

 

Mount Diablo Unified Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student % of average for unified school districts State Aid  $2,434 71% Local Sources $2,859 147% Federal Revenue $1,037 93% Other State Revenue $2,283 114% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $412 78% Total $9,026 100%

Source: Department of Education, Ed-Data

Bill Wainwright January 15, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Do Martinez schools receive less public money than the Mt. Diablo district because local sources (private and taxpayer funded) in Martinez provide more? Food for thought for Martinez voters the next time a bond issue comes up and all those who generously devote their time and resources, including local service clubs, to the Martinez Education Foundation. Should it be this way? Isn't there a danger that this situation will lead those who "provide for themselves" to lose heart and decide to "go on the dole?" The Governor needs to reconsider this likely "unintended consequence" of democratic generosity. Or has he and seen crass political value in it?
Cindy January 15, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Well said Bill. I understand that there are district that do not have the support that many other school districts have. This should not however take money from those districts who have outside support as all district have a list of projects that need funding. A possible better use would be to set aside a very small portion to teach other districts how to set up fund raising and local support in their areas. But then again I think Bill may have hit upon the political value he will gain.
Concord Mike January 16, 2013 at 12:57 AM
With the passage of prop 30, the average California per-student K-12 spending this year will be $11,400 per student. If the average class size is 30, that equates to a per-classroom cost of $342,000. As far as I can see, we are spending more taxpayer money than should be necessary to run a very good school system. Instead of arguing about why one district gets a little more than another, we should be asking where all the money is going? Answer: The money is going to wasteful administration, excessively high salaries and benefits. It is time to stop talking about more money for schools. It is time to talk about more accountability for results!
Ron Skrehot January 23, 2013 at 04:26 AM
Some of this discussion is a bit off topic. The question was if we feel more money should go to certain districts or not. The fact is, this has been done for some time, long before Prop 30. Another fact is that most school infrastructure is paid for with local money, the state doesn't provide enough to maintain our schools and infrastructure, let alone build them or refurbish them when needed. Many poorer districts have little community support because the community has little to give. So the question really is, do those children deserve the same educational opportunities as children in wealthy communities? Poorer kids don't make the choice to be poorer so if wealthy kids are the only ones with access to education you have what existed in the dark ages. The Governor's plan may not seem fair but it's the lesser of the evils in my opinion. The other point well made in the article is the fewer number of teachers and other staff compared to 5 years ago. If we are spending too much for education then why are people seeking other professions at a growing rate? And why is California so low in per student spending compared to other states, many of which are poorer than ours?
Ron Skrehot January 23, 2013 at 04:32 AM
Another sad note, the state has enough money for high speed rail it doesn't need, but has to pass a proposition to fund basic education. This is where our Governor is failing all of us, not just our kids.

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