Dan Walters

Dan Walters
May 16, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised 2015-16 budget sharply increases spending on California’s 6-plus million elementary and high school students.

He estimates that local property taxes, state aid and federal funds will raise K-12 spending to $83 billion, or something north of $13,000 per pupil. Most of it is devoted to Brown’s “Local Control Funding Formula,” which provides extra money to school districts with large numbers of poor and/or “English-learner” students.

More than half of our school kids fall into that category and the extra money – in theory, at least – will help close the “achievement gap” between them and their more affluent white and Asian American classmates.

Coincidentally, as Brown unveiled his education-centric budget, a coalition headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell released a report on high school graduation rates, and California didn’t fare too well.

California’s 2013 graduation rate, 80.4 percent, is a full percentage point below the national rate and 9.6 points behind the coalition’s goal of 90 percent by 2020.

Those who rationalize California’s persistently low levels of academic achievement, as measured by graduation rates and national test scores – especially the California Teachers Association – usually blame a supposed lack of money.

But with the recent money injections from Sacramento, that rationale weakens.

Over the last few years, per-pupil spending has risen by about 50 percent and is now – although state-to-state comparisons are tricky – something over the national average.


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