Weinberg: Extra money makes a huge difference in student outcomes

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and Education Report contributor, makes a case for the Proposition 30 tax initiative on the November ballot.

Steven WeinbergDoes providing schools with more money lead to improvements in student achievement?

The experience of Oakland middle schools over the last three years shows that it does.

Several years ago four Oakland middle schools with test scores in the lowest 20 percent of state schools received multiyear grants of $900 per student to reduce class sizes and fund other improvements. The grants were not given to all schools in the lowest 20 percent because the state wanted to be able to compare differences in improvement between those schools that received the extra money and those that did not.

After three years the differences in Oakland’s middle schools are dramatic. The four schools that received the extra funding (Claremont, Frick, Madison, and Urban Promise) have improved their API scores by an average of 99 points. The middle schools that started with similar scores, but did not receive the funding, improved by an average of only 32 points. The Oakland middle schools that were not in the lowest 20 percent of the state made only an average of 2 points of API gain over these three years. (All the figures are comparisons of 2008 base scores to 2011 base scores.)

The gains for students in schools with the extra funding was more than three times as large as the gains in similar schools and much greater than that if all middle schools are compared.

Clearly additional funding and lower class sizes make a huge difference in helping schools increase student achievement. These gains might have been even larger if the state had not been cutting basic school support during this period.

California voters will have a choice in November. They can approve a small, temporary tax increase that will provide resources for our schools, or they can vote against the plan and see massive cuts to educational programs. What they decide will have a clear effect on the achievement of our students.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Ann Joseph

    #50- yes, they have run the numbers, but tough choices had to be made from what I can gather. It would be great if the district could reimburse the school for the cameras, or pay for the librarian. It gets complicated with the Results Based Budgeting (RBB), but I really think there should be a requirement that certain things (like safety or a library) happen regardless of how the individual school site sets up their budget. On a brighter note, we are thrilled with the quality of the teachers at Montera and excited about the year and the new adiminstration.

  • Observer

    Nontcair, you completely missed my point. oh, yes! A redistribution in the equity could absolutely happen and the murmurings in town indicate a push to go after those private donations from families that go to the better, less state funded so-called “Hills” schools is in the works and may soon become a reality. The point is if that reality happens, the private donations will cease and those schools will finally fail as well (which I know would make you quite happy). There will probably be a lawsuit though, and the parents may actually win it as it is probably against one’s constitutional rights to take one’s donation intended for one purpose and spend it on another. That will cost everyone a whole lot of time and money. Of course, the district will only try this with the more stable families that attend their schools (who they are supposed to serve but continue to treat as unwanted step-children). They’ll never try this with the corporations that are donating to schools like OSA.

  • Ann Joseph

    #52- great point observer! That corporation money could be well spent in many, many schools in Oakland that aren’t getting a piece of THAT pie!

  • Nontcair

    Where can I find what Prop 30 actually *says*? Everything I read about it online is what other people *believe* it says.

    So far as I can tell, Prop 30 is just another cynical attempt by the crooked politicians to make a tax increase look more appealing by claiming that the money will be reserved for a politically popular purpose (ie public education).

    As always the establishment strategy is to induce gullible people to vote to raise taxes on themselves.

    Their grand political scheme is to separate more and more of the special interest (though popular) spending from the general fund. Then those programs could be put on sort of fiscal “auto-pilot”, subject to steady increases imposed by ever more frequent special tax initiatives (like 30).

    The more voters approve of such things, the more likely we are to get them placed on future ballots.

    With vast amounts of what had been considered general fund obligations placed “ex-budget”, the remaining general fund can be turned into a true slush fund, available for every possible political patronage scheme a twisted politician’s mind can conceive.

    The general fund is already large enough, thank you. It deserves to be drastically scaled back. Is it too much to ask the government to try to live within its means?

  • AC Mom


    State and federal money allocated to schools is not equal, and is usually based on some funding formula…# of kids receiving free and reduced priced lunch, etc. Nor as has been mentioned do schools receive equal amounts of money, either via PTAs, or private donations from foundations and corporations. The fact is we don’t have an accurate picture of total per pupil funding in cash and in-kind donations for every school site. So the impact of limiting or prohibiting donations cannot be known. That doesn’t mean that the issue of school funding shouldn’t be discussed, I just think that in doing so we would have to reevaluate our whole approach to funding. Should funding be granted independent of “need”, and solely based upon the number of students attending? Also, I think that it is unfair to categorize one person’s $1 million donation, versus that of hundreds of parents and supports pulling together to fund music, art, buying new books for the library, etc.

    I do not have a child at a “hills school”, we are at a “flatlands school”. But, in my previous job, not with OUSD, I had the chance to visit several schools. You could go to a school in say East Oakland, that had computer labs, multiple intervention specialists and the like, and another school did not have those resources available. So, it’s not a matter of “rich” vs. “poor”… as both schools had comparable #’s of kids with free and reduced price lunch, English Language Leaners , etc. Things may have changes at both schools, this was a few years ago, but I still think that you will find that there are still schools taht have similar demographics and vastly different learning environments.

  • AC Mom


    Here’s the ballot text
    http://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2012/general/pdf/text-proposed-laws.pdf See pages 80-84.

  • Nontcair

    Thanks for the link! I’ve been looking for new forms of self-torture so analyzing 30 should be perfect.

    The first item that grabbed my attention was in its “Findings”, §2(h):

    To ensure these funds go where the voters intend, they are put in special accounts that the Legislature cannot touch


    Like the Social Security Trust Fund.

    Like that Oakland Measure to Fund cops beyond that 750 or so minimum.

    Sounds to me like CA’s public education bureaucracy needs a $180M building in downtown San Francisco.

  • Nontcair

    30 is quite extensive.

    It boggles the mind that bureaucrats from the Legislative Analyst’s Office can make such sweeping assertions about what it all means.

    Really. Well I can sum up 30 in only two words:

    “Trust us.”

  • Nontcair

    Article 2 §8(d):

    An initiative measure embracing more than one subject may not be submitted to the electors or have any effect.

    You can make War & Peace appear to embrace a single subject by putting the entire novel in one section.

    Recall the CA Secretary of State!

    Don’t you just love how the meaning of “public safety”, properly designated as government’s top priority (§35), is broadened as it relates to this amendment to cover:

    drug rehab
    adoption services
    housing for parolees and others in the CJ system
    courthouse “security” types
    mental health workers

  • Nontcair

    We use the Constitution to spell out the duties we want the government to perform. Of the course the goal is to keep the areas of government involvement as few as possible. The government which governs least governs best.

    In order for the government to carry out those functions, we use the Constitution to give it a broad power to tax. For obvious reasons a power we want it to use sparingly.

    It’s horribly abusive for politicians to use the Constitution to make/protect jobs for/of their friends.

  • Nextset

    Article on people fleeing public schools for charters:


    This is a huge difference in student outcomes.

  • AC Mom


    The article was about fleeing private schools (not public) for charters.

  • Nontcair

    The principle behind an initiative being limited to one subject (only) is that we want to keep the Constitution *simple* enough for the average elector to be able to read it and understand what it means.

    Clearly, Prop 30 fails the simplicity test. It should *never* have been approved for the ballot.

    The Constitution is supposed to be about expressing broad, guiding principles of the People. You know, freedom of speech, prohibition of slavery. That sort of thing. We then leave it up to the Legislature to pass laws which satisfy and derive from those princples.

    Prop 30 gums up the Constitution with a bunch of legal gobbledegook related to a lockbox, consideration of federal programs, references to complex statutes, and so forth; unfortunately, 30 is not unique in that regard.

    The Constitution already puts a priority on public education. In fact, one which is in conflict with its priority on public safety! Nonetheless, we already have that priority expressed in the manor in which the general fund is supposed to be divided up.

    It the politicians feel that not enough money is being spent on priorities then it’s their job to reduce the flow of general funds to less essential programs. Not to come back at us for more money to protect (increase) those other programs.

  • OUSD Parent

    #63-Nontcair, Can you elaborate on what you mean by : “The Constitution already puts a priority on public education. In fact, one which is in conflict with its priority on public safety!” I understand all of your post except for that one sentence. I have an idea of what you mean but I may be completely off base.

  • J.R.

    He no doubt is speaking of the State of California’s constitution.


    The federal government has no constitutionally defined role for itself nor should it:


  • OUSD Parent

    Thanks, JR. I’m curious specifically about “…one which is in conflict with its priority on public safety.” That’s where I get lost. The conflict between public education and public safety. Where does he see the conflict?

  • J.R.

    You are very welcome. I think non’s issue with conflict is outlined in this earlier post:

    “Don’t you just love how the meaning of “public safety”, properly designated as government’s top priority (§35), is broadened as it relates to this amendment to cover:

    drug rehab
    adoption services
    housing for parolees and others in the CJ system
    courthouse “security” types
    mental health workers”

    Politician have enlarged the enlarged the definition of terms “public safety”, “public education”,and routinely bait and switch tax money(example: Mayor Quan’s measures Q and I, Bullet train whose estimated costs have tripled since passage,the redevelopment agency money which some,was supposedly going toward filling education funding gaps hasn’t made any difference.)

    The tax measures promises of more and better service only to find out that:
    1. There are vast cost overruns not taken into account.
    2. the money is diverted by withholding same amount from different program.

    In short measure thirty is another “bait and switch”, and this time the gun to taxpayers heads are the risk of the children’s education.

    Never forget that politicians and their staff took pay hikes “AFTER” cutting ervices.(real nice huh?)

    Just remember these wise words(from R.Reagan) “A Government that can do everything “FOR” you, can do anything “TO” you.

  • J.R.
  • Nontcair

    This “temporary” tax increase is scheduled to expire in 2017. We know that Jerry Brown intends to come back at us to try to renew it or likely make it permanent.

    In 2016, after he has won re-election.

    He’ll subsequently try to raise it as much as he can.

    Regarding the Constitutional conflict of priority between public education and public safety, Article 16 §8 is the constitutional provision which reserves the biggest chunk of the general fund to public education. It works out to about 50%.

    If that’s not a priority then I don’t know what is!

    Meanwhile, Article 13 §35 states Public safety services are critically important to the
    security and well-being of the State’s citizens ..
    The protection of the public safety is the first
    responsibility of local government and local officials have an obligation to give priority to the provision of adequate public safety services.

  • Nontcair

    from § e(8): Revenues, less refunds, derived pursuant to [the higher taxes] for deposit in the [education lockbox] .. shall be deemed “General Fund revenues,” .. and “moneys to be applied by the State for the support of [public education]” for purposes of Section 8 of Article XVI.

    Oh, how sneaky!

    In order for this tax increase to generate support from *all* the public unions (not just teachers) Brown needs to give them all a piece of it. This proposition does so in a crafty way: by putting the money in a lockbox!

    That’s right.

    Since the higher taxes/expenditures will be credited toward satisfying the earmark required by Art 16 §8, every dollar which flows into the lockbox can be used to help reduce the amount of GENERAL FUND expenditure for education.

    The general funds thereby made unrestricted could then be spent on programs which benefit the other public unions.

    Prop 30 sees to it that education spending will still *rise* overall, but it also sets the stage to raise spending on *other* budget items as well.

  • Nontcair

    § c(1): (c) (1) Funds deposited in the Local Revenue Fund 2011 are continuously appropriated exclusively to fund the provision of Public Safety Services

    Um, excuse me, but the *Legislature* has the power of the purse.

    Article 16 §7 clearly states that Money may be drawn from the Treasury only through an appropriation made by law ..

    This notion of tax dollars continuously flowing to a slush fund (or any other entity), outside of formal legislative appropriation, goes against our system of checks and balances.

    If Brown wants to spend tax dollars he had better be prepared to go through the Legislature and, since he doesn’t have a sufficient number of votes, make some compromises.

    Now what’s all this talk about politicians being sworn to defend the Constitution?

  • Nontcair

    §c(7) The funds deposited into a County Local Revenue Fund 2011 shall be spent in a manner designed to maintain the State’s eligibility for federal matching funds, and to ensure compliance .. with applicable federal standards governing the State’s provision of Public Safety Services.

    Setting up a spending mechanism with an eye towards federal funds goes against the notion of States’ Rights.

    Besides, the federal government has NO constitutional role in public safety.

    Prop 30 cedes more power to both Sacramento *and* Washington.

  • Nontcair

    Gee, you won’t read *any* of this in the “nonpartisan” analysis put out by the CA Legislative Analyst’s Office.

    AKA The Soviet Ministry of Information.

  • J.R.

    Public safety is one of many public sector units that have wrought financial devastation on this state:





    Non, another thing is that education takes up 40% of the California budget, not 50%. Education invests in the future and is necessary and crucial. Babysitting criminals in a locked and controlled environment is debateable, and we could do want was standard in centuries past which is to leave prisoners locked in their cells(you know, punishment). This would not only save money by having less babysitters(prison guards) but would do away with weight training,recreation,conjugal visits, and cease making criminals stronger better and breeding more of them. I know this is off tangent but I just wanted to deal with a couple of related issues.

  • Nextset

    JR: California needs to move to Corporal Punishment of criminals – especially the quality of life crimes and juvenile crimes. It doesn’t take much flogging to stop street crime in it’s tracks. Ask Singapore. And it’s far cheaper.

    As far as criminals breeding that is a self inflicted wound on the public. You cannot have a welfare state and control the breeding of criminals and undesirables. Not without forced/coerced/paid sterilization and similarly forced abortions. If we didn’t want more undesirables, we wouldn’t be providing free labor and delivery and the attendant EBT cards and other payoffs.

    One day this will all stop. That day is coming. Superinflation is most likely how it will occur in CA. When it hits it will hit quickly.

    I wonder if CA will experience the violent crash first or will it occur the same rate across the USA.

    My bet is that the upcoming Romney Administration will try to pull the plug on the CA and IL economy first, let them crash and burn and use them as an object lesson and warning to the rest of the nation.

    We live in interesting times.

    Brave New World.

  • Nontcair

    Look it up.

    Brown’s 2012-2013 *proposed* budget allocated slightly *more* than 50% of the General Fund to public education (K-16). I couldn’t find a quick pie chart summary of the budget as *enacted*.

    Though I can’t find the separate pie chart right now I remember that the percentages dropped when interest on debt was taken into account.

    Money spent on public golf courses invests in the future, provides crucial recreational space, and is good for the environment.

    Money spent on public grain elevators …

  • Mike Napolitano

    California funds its K-12 schools at 25 percent below the national average, while having the highest percentage of English language learners and one of the highest percentages of students living in poverty. Proposition 30, besides bringing CA school spending up to the national average within 5 years, would also increase the proportion of total state funding going to English language learners and students livingg in poverty.

    Of course funding, absent leadership, hard work, and skill, community involvement and team work won’t fix our schools. Fortunately, we are blessed in Oakland, and I believe many other communities in CA, to have these other ingredients in abundance. Given just a decent amount of funding, I know California’s future will be bright.

  • J.R.
  • J.R.

    OUSD already spends at or above the national per child average. Funding is not, and never has been the major factor in education for decades in this district.

  • Nontcair

    Prop 30 potentially reduces the constitutionally mandated general fund obligation to public education. That obligation can be modeled as:

    EkT, where

    E is the ($) amount of general fund earmarked to K-16
    T is the general fund ($)
    k is the minimum as set-forth by Art 16 §8 (~50%)

    Prop 30 raises taxes and earmarks a portion of the revenues (E’) to an education “lockbox” whose amount can be used to satisfy E (see #70). Therefore,

    E+E’≥ k(T+T’), and so
    E≥ k(T+T’) – E’

    The amount by which the general fund’s obligation to public education (E) can change by reason of this lockbox (T’) is simply the derivative of E:

    E≥ (k-1) ∂ T’, since:

    dE’ and dT’ change at the same rate, and
    100% of the lockbox is dedicated to K-16

    Therefore, with k~ ½, for every $2 of new taxes raised which flow into the lockbox, the general fund obligation can fall by $1 [2*(-0.5)]

  • Nontcair

    Of course, under Prop 30 the General Fund obligation to public education would probably *fall* even further than that. §b(2):

    the revenues deposited [into the “public safety” lockbox] shall not be considered General Fund revenues or proceeds of taxes for purposes of Section 8 of Article XVI of the California Constitution.

    In other words, the non-education related public unions (see #59) are to be rewarded by getting their flow of the money positioned “upstream” from the general fund — before the public education earmark (Art 16 §8) applies. Like the way some of your retirement contributions can be made “pre-tax”.

    By reducing the general fund in *absolute* terms, public education’s nominal earmark would be reduced proportionately — by as much as 50%/B> of that figure. That is because every $2 which would have flowed into the general fund would have generated an additional $1 appropriation for public education.

    Isn’t it remarkable how the special interests get taken care of?

  • J.R.

    Good post, very informative.

  • Nontcair

    Today’s iba paper, in a negative editorial about Prop *38*, described Prop 30 as complex and deserving of its own editorial analysis, but hinted that the Editorial Board would be *supporting* it.

    My analysis herein should be enough to convince any political indepedent that Prop 30 needs to be DEFEATED.

    I challenge the EB to refute anything I wrote about it.