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

Compare per student funding in Santa Cruz County 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 Santa Cruz County school districts 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.

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.

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? 

Live Oak School District Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school districts State Aid $4,214 126% Local Property Taxes $1,131 57% Federal Revenue $693 75% Other State Revenue $1,581 106% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,212 165% Total $8,832 104%

Pajaro Valley USD Revenue for 2010-11

Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid $2,718 79% Local Property Taxes $2,604 134% Federal Revenue $1,687 151% Other State Revenue $2,974 144% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $175 33% Total $10,058 111% San Lorenzo Valley USD Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid $2,390 69% Local Property Taxes $3,462 178% Federal Revenue $868 78% Other State Revenue $1,432 72% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,324 249% Total $9,476 249% Santa Cruz City Schools Revenue for 2010-2011 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school district State Aid $898 26% Local Property Taxes $5,203 267% Federal Revenue $809 73% Other State Revenue $1,300 65% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,053 198% Total $9,264 103% Scotts Valley USD Revenue for 2010-11 Source  $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid $1,750 51% Local Property Taxes $3,537 182% Federal Revenue $279 25% Other State Revenue $758 38% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $953 179% Total $7,277


Soquel Union School District Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school districts State Aid $1,403
42% Local Property Taxes $3,827 194% Federal Revenue $903 97% Other State Revenue $1,121 76% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $777 106% Total $8,032


Source: California Department of Education, Ed-Data

Steve Bankhead January 16, 2013 at 04:48 PM
I think Pajaro Valley probably gets more because of the higher expenses it has for mandated ESL, migrant programs, etc., than other county districts.
Cynthia January 16, 2013 at 08:06 PM
PVUSD is a HUGE district compared to the rest. We no longer have ESL Migrant programs (those wentout in the 80's), Migrant services are diminishing because of stricter guidelines and not many qualify.
Bruce January 16, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Standard deviations on support levels would be appropriate, too. As would cost structure differentials (residual construction/reconstruction bonds etc.). It is hard to compare, but a $7,277 to $10,058 range of total support does seem rather large.
Steve Bankhead January 16, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Cynthia: I'm puzzled by your assertion that PV school district no longer has ESL or Migrant programs, since I just checked the Pajaro Valley Unified School District home page and see that among it's listed departments ar two identified as "Educational and English Learner Services" and "Migrant Services." The days must be pretty quiet in those departments if neither of them have any programs.
Cynthia January 17, 2013 at 07:47 PM
ESL is not Educational and English Learner Services. A student is classified as a English Learner if they enter kinder (or US) speaking any language, other than English (no matter how much in that language). The services that are provided to these students are adequate English Language Development (the way English is taught) and it must be administered by qualified teachers. Then, their progress is tracked until they become proficient in English. There for, yearly assessments are given to students to see if progress is being made. The English Learner Services Department is in charged of that, and making sure schools follow their protocols. The Migrant Department qualifies families that move because of agriculture work, and it's only for a period of time (I think 2-3 years). Many families exit their services because many of them aren't moving away. So the Migrant program has less students been serviced as before. The department has cut their staff, and services in the last few years.


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