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California school spending near bottom in country

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, October 29th, 2011 at 11:37 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

An October 2011 report by the California Budget Project shows that California is near the bottom in school spending when compared to other states.

“A decade of disinvestment has left California’s spending for public schools lagging the nation by a number of measures,” it states. “The Proposition 98 guarantee, designed to ensure a minimum level of funding for California’s schools and community colleges, has not prevented significant cuts to the resources available to schools. Lawmakers have repeatedly cut state spending in recent years in response to the dramatic decline in revenues caused by the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s. As a result, 2010-11 estimated General Fund spending was lower as a share of the state’s economy than in 35 of the prior 40 years. Recent cuts have reversed longstanding policies and have left public systems and programs ill-equipped to cope with the ongoing impact of the Great Recession and the challenges of a growing population and an ever-more-competitive global economy.

California public schools, unlike those in many other states, receive a majority of their dollars from the state budget, and the largest share of state spending supports K-12 schools. As California cut spending for schools to help close perennial state budget shortfalls, the gap between California spending for education and that in the rest of the US widened. While federal dollars provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) helped schools fill budget gaps that resulted from state cuts to education spending, resources available to California schools dropped to historic lows relative to the rest of the US by the end of the decade. This School Finance Facts compares state and local spending on public schools in California with the rest of the US and shows that California’s education spending ranks near the bottom according to several measures.”

It shows that California ranks last in number of K-12 students per teacher (20.5 compared to then national average of 13.8) and last in number of students per librarian (5,489 compared to the national average of 839). The state is 49th in the number of K-12 students per guidance counselor (810 compared to the national average of 433) and 47th in K-12 spending as a percentage of personal income (3.27 percent compared to the national average of 4.29 percent).

California is 46th in both K-12 spending per student and number of K-12 students per administrator, according to the report. The state spends an average of $8,908 per student, compared to the national average of $11,764. It employs one administrator for every 301 students, compared to a ratio of one to 203 in the rest of the country.

You can see the full report at

In the Mt. Diablo school district, the number of students per teacher is much greater than even the state average. Most K-5 classes are about 30 students per teacher, while some middle and high school classes have around 37 students.

Do you think that more education spending would solve California’s problems in narrowing the achievement gap?

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10 Responses to “California school spending near bottom in country”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    CDE publishes a detailed comparision of various ways to compare per pupil spending that gives a wide array of results.

    As we have learned from MDUSD accounting practices, the bottom line is always dependent upon what numbers are included and what numbers are excluded.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    California has the THIRD HIGHEST average teacher salary in the nation, behind only New York and Massachussets.

    So if California is near the bottom in per student spending, where is all of the money being spent ? Doesn’t that mean in the classroom ?

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an article about the San Diego school district’s credit rating taking a hit, in part based on outstanding long-term debt from bond obligations that stretches 40 years:

  4. teaching vs. administration cost Says:

    It would be interesting the see the breakdown of teaching vs. administration costs. And YES where does MDUSD fit in these comparisons?

  5. Doctor J Says:

    MDUSD’s teacher salaries are higher than the California State averages. But I don’t see that as the problem for a credit rating hit. I worry much more about the $863,000 cost overruns like we just had with poor, not just poor but awful, financial forcasting as to the cost of taking over school busing. I also worry about Lawrence and Eberhart’s willing to gamble 5 school furlough days to lose $15 million in SIG Grants, Cohort 1 plus all of Cohort 2, for an estimated $25 million. Personally, I wonder if the $863,000 isn’t just a ruse to get mild mannered Mike Langley to agree to the 7 furlough days.

  6. Another MDUSD Mom Says:

    It is all MDUSD math.

  7. Doctor J Says:

    @Another#6 YES! It was simply amazing the 4 of 5 Board members were willing to take such drastic action on a very general statement, rather than demanding to see the detailed accounting before acting. We have heard the promise from Rolen before that he will provide the numbers and they never show up. Amazing.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Pepperdine released a report that compared districts throughout the state on their spending:
    Here are MDUSD’s stats, according to the report, which was based on 2008-09 spending:
    Average daily attendance: 33,220
    Total per student spending: $8,685
    Percent in classroom: 64
    Per student spending on books and textbooks: $55
    Per student spending on materials and supplies: $176
    Per student spending on travel and conferences: $21
    Per student spending on consulting services: $862
    Average teacher’s salary: $61,095
    2003-04 to 2008-09 administrator and teacher salary growth compared to California per capita income growth of 15 percent: Administrators’ grew at a faster rate, teachers’ grew at a slower rate.

  9. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, you never cease to amaze me with the wealth of education knowledge right on your fingertips — what a knowledgable reporter !

  10. Wait a Minute Says:

    More excellent reporting as usual Theresa.

    Looking at the Pepperdine numbers we see that the MDUSD is spending 34% (or almost $3,000 per student) of its monies OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM.

    That “overhead” amounts to almost 100 MILLION DOLLARS!

    With all their myriad scandals and crisis I for one don’t think we are getting our money’s worth out of the district administration.

    Just that fact that “consulting services” dwarfs the money spent on books and supplies for the classrooms shows how misplaced the district’s priorities are.

    Just by going charter, the CVCHS folks stand to be able to re-direct much of that currently squandered money back into their classrooms which is where it should be if “…Children Come First”!

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