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

Compare per student funding for Lamorinda and Walnut Creek schools.

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 shrunk 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.

[For differences in revenues between Lamorinda and Walnut Creek schools during the 2010-11 school year, see the tables at the bottom of this article.]

"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.

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. 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.

Acalanes Union High School District received $255 per student from the state in 2010-11. That's 7 percent of the average for California's high school districts. A parcel tax provided $1,969 for every student in the district, which is 3,000 percent higher than the statewide average. 

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


Lafayette Elementary Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Per student % of elementary average  State Aid $993 30% Local Property Taxes and Fees $4,024 204% Federal Revenue $496 53% Other State Revenue $931 63% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $2,090 285% Total $8,535 101% Moraga Elementary Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student % of elementary average State Aid $1,309 39% Local Property Taxes and Fees $3,681 186% Federal Revenue $232 25% Other State Revenue $985 66% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $2,751 375% Total $8,958 106% Orinda Union Elementary Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student % of elementary average State Aid $1,608 48% Local Property Taxes and Fees $3,480 176% Federal Revenue $409 44% Other State Revenue $943 63% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $4,113 560% Total $10,554 125% Walnut Creek Elementary Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student % of elementary average State Aid  $585 18% Local Property Taxes and Fees $412 228% Federal Revenue $596 64% Other State Revenue $806 54% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,231 168% Total $7,730 91% Acalanes Union High Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student  % of high school district average State Aid $255 7% Local Property Taxes and Fees $5,888 187% Federal Revenue $371 41% Other State Revenue $860 58% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $3,284 463% Total $10,658 109%

Source: California Department of Education, Ed-Data

c5 January 14, 2013 at 02:17 PM
are we now talking about solar panels on schools??
c5 January 14, 2013 at 02:19 PM
what you think what you hear from our govt is the absolute truth? there is always an agenda, including the pomp and circumstance about the balanced budget...
Alex Gronke January 14, 2013 at 03:41 PM
George Skelton, the LA Times' Sacramento columnist, blasts Brown's education spending plan in his Monday column. Here's the lede: "Robbing Peter in the suburbs to pay Paul in the inner city seems politically perilous. Even unjust." http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cap-budget-20130114,0,2017690.column
Chris Nicholson January 14, 2013 at 04:08 PM
The article also reveals (or reminds-- I guess it was't Top Secret) that Brown intended ALL ALONG to push this agenda in connection with Prop 30. Apparently he was convinced to wait until AFTER Prop 30 to pass before pitching the new funder formula as the "other shoe." From a marketing perspective, "raise taxes on the rich, take money from the middle class schools and send it to LAUSD to educate the children of illegals" apparently didn't poll well. but that's the net net of all of this. If you adjust for the cost of educating the children of illegals, CA spending per pupil is about average. Now, on top of this singular budget-busting factor, he proposes to take ADDITIONAL money from the rest of the system to INCREASE this imbalance? This is utopian and bizarre. If we want an immigration policy in the U.S. that lures people not just with EQUAL access to public schools but with PREFERENTIAL funding for their children, then that should be a national conversation to yield a national policy with national funding.
Ophelia OBrien January 14, 2013 at 06:43 PM
One of the bigger problems is that this redistribution plan does not encourage poorer performing schools to improve, because once they improve, they will lose the excess funding....and likely return to poor performance. Improve your ESL scores, lose funding. Improve your API scores, lose funding. Where is the incentive to improve? Education is a partnership between teachers, school administrators, students AND parents. In general, if the parent is not involved, the student is not engaged. If the teacher is not involved, the student is not engaged. There are students in poor performing districts who have involved parents and go on to college educations. Brown is trying to use money to patch the hole of uninvolved parenting.


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