Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
01/24/2015 8:36 PM

Gov. Jerry Brown says that if his 2015-16 budget is adopted, California will be spending an average of $13,462 on each of its 6 million K-12 students, or about $81 billion.

The numbers most assuredly are wrong because they are calculated on assumptions of variable factors that cannot be precisely predicted and omit some factors altogether.

They don’t include, for instance, $2.4 billion the state spends each year to repay school construction bonds, or nearly another half-billion dollars it spends on teacher pensions.

The total, therefore, may be closer to $84 billion from the state’s general fund, local property taxes and federal funds, or about $14,000 per pupil, and it could approach $15,000 by 2016. Legislative budget analyst Mac Taylor believes that schools may receive another $2 billion in the current fiscal year alone due to rising revenue.

Proposition 98, the constitutional provision governing school finance, requires that schools get virtually all revenue increases, and that’s beginning to grate on advocates of health and welfare services and higher education who yearn to recoup what they lost during the Great Recession.

“It’s great for education, not for other parts of the budget,” Senate Budget Committee chairman Mark Leno said at a hearing last week, adding, “It all goes to (Proposition) 98.”

Despite the surge of money, however, California’s per-pupil education spending is still relatively low vis-à-vis other states.

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