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

Compare per student funding for Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont and West Contra Costa 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 Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont and WCC unified 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 a $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? 

Alameda USD Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid $3,306 96% Local Property Taxes $2,009 103% Federal Revenue $737 66% Other State Revenue $1,469 74% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,868 351% Total $9,390 104%

Albany USD Revenue for 2010-11

Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid $3,678 107% Local Property Taxes $1,607 83% Federal Revenue $2,058 185% Other State Revenue $4,657 233% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,891 356% Total $13,891 154% Berkeley USD Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid $2,565 75% Local Property Taxes $2,993 154% Federal Revenue $728 65% Other State Revenue $2,439 122% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $4,344 817% Total $13,070 145% Oakland USD Revenue for 2010-2011 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school district State Aid $3,564 104% Local Property Taxes $1,806 93% Federal Revenue $1,833 164% Other State Revenue $3,373 169% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,119 210% Total $11,695 130% Piedmont USD Revenue for 2010-11 Source  $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid $2,300 67% Local Property Taxes $3,029 156% Federal Revenue $504 45% Other State Revenue $1,024 51% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $5,430 1,021% Total $12,287

136%

West Contra Costa Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid $3,340 97% Local Property Taxes $2,063 106% Federal Revenue $1,196 107% Other State Revenue $2,333 117% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $804 151% Total $9,735 108%

Source: California Department of Education, Ed-Data

Ira Sharenow January 14, 2013 at 11:33 PM
But wasteful construction expenditures and operational expenditures are very closely related. The same local residents pay both taxes. For example in this last election WCCUSD taxpayers were asked to renew a parcel tax with no increment in the amount and to approve yet another bond measure. Perhaps if WCCUSD spent less on construction, the taxpayers would support higher parcel taxes for operational expenses. Buildings should be maintained at an appropriate level, but sometimes school districts make very poor decisions.
Fran Anderson January 15, 2013 at 06:29 AM
Jerry Brown has Always been a fair, non-bigoted, non-partial lawmaker. This isn't his first rodeo. He will distribute the education revenues FAIRLY. Stop all the obstructionist rhetoric already. WE are Blessed that WE have a Governor who looks out for the children in his state.
David January 15, 2013 at 01:51 PM
I have a HUGE problem with sending our tax money to failing public schools. As for "picking and choosing" --other states' voucher programs do not allow private schools to pick or choose. If the school takes vouchers, they take the kids with vouchers. By definition, these students, in, say, Wisconsin are low income etc (those are the only students who get vouchers).
None January 15, 2013 at 06:14 PM
If the dollar per student ratio was proportional to the results after testing, that would be a good argument for more money per student. However, it doesn’t quite work out that way. Look at the $/Student ratios in Washington, DC and then in Utah. We need an overhaul of our system and just pouring money on it will not solve the problem no matter who is our governor.
Kei January 15, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Then why is the Governor so palsy-walsy with the teachers' union? Because he dare not bite the hand that feeds him-- or, perhaps, holds the whip.

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