Are California’s schools really ‘starving’ for revenue?

Whenever you see politicians and special interests throwing statistics around like the cafeteria food in “Animal House,” it’s a better-than-even bet that they’re distorting their respective claims about how we fund schools in California.

Here are some basics about school financing that every taxpayer should know. First, it’s complicated. K-14 schools get funding from a variety of federal, state and local sources.  (K-14 includes community colleges but not the University of California or California State University).

Second, it should be no surprise that California spends more on education than any other state given our population. But we also spend significantly more per student when all sources of revenue are considered.

Third, the biggest slice out of the state’s general fund pie goes to education. This is due in large part to Proposition 98, a constitutional initiative barely approved (50.7%) by voters in 1988. It requires a minimum percentage of the state budget to be spent on K-14 education and has a complex series of “tests” to determine annual increases in spending. Generally speaking, it requires that at least 40% of the state budget to go to K-14 education. The 40% guarantee is ironclad even though enrollment in K-14 has fallen significantly in recent years.

According to its sponsor and biggest funder, the California Teachers Association, Prop. 98 was the panacea to fix all that was wrong with education. The first sentence of the ballot argument in favor of the initiative, signed by CTA’s president, states “Proposition 98 is a well-thought-out plan for California’s schools to once again be among the very best in the nation.”

To read the entire column, please click here.