Dan Walters

Dan Walters
Observations on California and its politics
03/29/2015 – 07:15 PM

One of the Capitol’s perpetual debates is over how much California spends to educate its 6.2 million elementary and high school students, especially in relationship to other states.

Education groups, led by the influential California Teachers Association, have complained for years that the state is near the bottom in per-pupil spending, but with recent and sharp increases in spending, California has climbed rapidly in state-to-state comparisons.

A new report by the National Education Association, the national teachers union, shows that California is now 29th in per-pupil spending, just a few dollars under the national average.

When all forms of school spending – such as capital outlay and repaying school construction bonds – are included in the calculations, California’s per-pupil spending hits the national average.

The NEA report estimates California’s operational spending this year at $69.4 billion and for all costs at $84.3 billion. Those numbers translate into $11,190 per student as measured by average daily attendance (ADA), $850 under the national average of $12,040, and $13,500 for all spending, virtually identical to the national average.

Operational spending per ADA ranges from a high of $30,738 in Vermont to a low of $7,360 in Arizona.

California’s 29th ranking is 13 places higher than it was in NEA’s 2012-13 calculations, thanks to infusions of money from an improving economy and Proposition 30, a temporary increase in sales and income taxes that Gov. Jerry Brown sponsored and voters approved.

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