ACSA members may be aware of a new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau, which says California ranks 25th in per-pupil school funding. Although some proponents of cutting school funding may use this as validation for their arguments, there are caveats to the census figures.
The Census Bureau numbers show that California still spends $652 less per student than the national average, even though census figures on “student spending” include funds from outside the state that never make it into the classroom. This outside funding arguably inflates the figures.
The Census Bureau estimates also lump in payments made to the state retirement systems, as well as federal funding beyond what the state spends.
Even including those calculations, California’s significantly below-average spending on students is abysmal. By comparison, the non-partisan national publication Education Week issued a report showing that California spends $1,900 less than the national average. That report includes only the actual funds spent by each state on each student.
The Census Bureau also showed that teacher salaries in California are below the national average on a per-pupil basis: $3,479 in California, compared to the national average of $3,811.
The report shows that California ranks 49th out of 51 states in the amount of funds spent on “general administration,” which includes spending on the board of education and executive administrative services, including the office of the superintendent.
California also ranks dead last in funds spent on transportation services, according the Census Bureau. This is a budget item that many school districts are having to cut even further with the proposed $4.8 billion in funding cuts for 2008-09, making it even more difficult for students in both rural and urban areas to get to school.