School funding: How California stacks up

If you’re reading this blog, you have probably heard — or cited — the statistic that California schools spend less per student than schools in almost every other state. Comparisons published by Education Week’s research department usually place California in the 40s, at the bottom of the heap. This year, California ranked a lowly 47.

But a report released today by the U.S. Census ranks California 23rd out of 51 in per-student spending, though still about $500 below the national average. Table 11, in the above Census link, includes the totals for each state and Washington, D.C. Of course, these figures are based on 2007 spending levels, before the bulk of the recent state cutbacks.

Why the difference? Ed Week researchers adjust the per-student spending numbers using the Comparable Wage Index to take into account regional cost differences, while the Census gives us the raw breakdown.

The Census report found that California schools spent an average of $9,152 per student in 2007 compared to the biggest spender, New York ($15,981 per student), and Utah at the other end ($5,683). The national average at the time was $9,666.

At the top, behind New York, were New Jersey ($15,691) and Washington, D.C. ($14,324). At the bottom, just above Utah, were Idaho ($6,625) and Tennessee ($7,113).

On the subject of wages: In a presentation on teacher compensation I heard in March, Stanford University researcher Susanna Loeb noted that salaries of teachers (and those in other occupations, from lawyers to nurses) were substantially higher in California than in other states. But because California’s schools don’t receive extra funding to cover the salary/cost-of-living difference, you see fewer adults in the state’s public schools than almost anywhere else in the U.S.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • heatman

    I asked Tony Smith yesterday what he thought the next five years would bring in the funding of public education in Oakland and he responded that he didn’t think it would be good and that Oakland needed to do what it could to improve funding on the local level. There is currently a coalition of community stakeholders looking at a parcel tax for the November ballot. I guess the question remains; what is the proper funding level for OUSD and can that level be reached by increasing local taxation?

  • Public School Fan

    At this point, would any of the citizens of Oakland trust that OUSD and the city would appropriately use any money raised by a new parcel tax?

    Right now, no one has extra money or even sufficient money — not the state, not OUSD, and not the citizens of Oakland. We already pay excessive amounts of additional parcel taxes. And at this point, many citizens cannot afford to pay more.

    Even at the expense of my Oakland public-schooled child, I would not vote for a new parcel tax until I saw some tangible evidence of responsible, responsive spending by OUSD and the city. And I can tell you that $77 million in OUSD spending on outside contractors is not a good place to start in my mind. And, yes, I realize that some of those dollars must be spent in that way on required costs and programs, but some of those dollars needn’t be spent on contractors.

    I don’t get the feeling (and I have no faith) that OUSD carefully manages its budget. Even in these days of criminally severe budget cuts.

  • Cranky Teacher

    On salary: Where you live is everything. My 40K would go a LOOOOOOONG way in Utah, Louisiana, etc. In the East Bay? Not so much.