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

The disparity in per student funding among some San Mateo County schools is astounding.

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 San Mateo 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 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? 

Burlingame School District Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school districts State Aid $1,866 56% Local Property Taxes $3,669 186% Federal Revenue $390 42% Other State Revenue $910 61% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $843 115% Total $7,678 91%

Hillsborough City Elementary School District Revenue for 2010-11

Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school districts State Aid -$1 0% Local Property Taxes $9,245 468% Federal Revenue $287 31% Other State Revenue $566 38% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $3,831 522% Total $13,928 164% Millbrae Elementary School District Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school districts State Aid $2,542 76% Local Property Taxes $3,056 155% Federal Revenue $462 50% Other State Revenue $919 62% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $240 33% Total $7,219 85% San Bruno Park Elementary Revenue for 2010-2011 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school district State Aid -$36 0% Local Property Taxes $5,657 286% Federal Revenue $581 63% Other State Revenue $807 54% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $555 76% Total $7,563 89% San Mateo Union High School Revenue for 2010-11 Source  $ Amount per student % Statewide average for high school districts State Aid -$28 0% Local Property Taxes $11,162 354% Federal Revenue $457 51% Other State Revenue $1,008 67% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $799 113% Total $13,397

137%

San Mateo-Foster City School District Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school districts State Aid $1,918
57% Local Property Taxes $3,551 180% Federal Revenue $659 71% Other State Revenue $1,107 75% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,271 173% Total $8,506

100%

South San Francisco USD Revenue for 2010-11
Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid -$31 0% Local Property Taxes $6,071 312% Federal Revenue $530 48% Other State Revenue $879 44% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $264 50% Total $7,712 85%

Source: California Department of Education, Ed-Data

Todd Mirkin January 16, 2013 at 04:08 PM
If I am 100% honest with myself, and this goes against my core as somebody who manages people and projects for a living, I would micromanage the distribution of the education's budget. Before doling anything out I would look at each districts budgets and expenditures. As in look at their books. If balance their budgets in a true to real life way, as in the way we the people have to in our own lives and private businesses, and the budgets don't show tax dollars being wasted than they get moved up the list for more funds. If they do 1/2 of the have above put them in the pack in the middle of the list. If they do neither to bottom of the State's educational funds list they go. Unfortunately due to budget trickery, such as using one time payments to balance the books, San Bruno would be in the middle of the pack.
Scott C. January 16, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Not counted is the disparity in regards to wealthier parents being able to contribute more time and resources to their children's education inside and outside the classroom. I think the Brown budget isn't perfect, but it's headed in the right direction. You can find the 18 page summary here... http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/BudgetSummary/BSS/BSS.html
Scott C. January 16, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Hi Todd, I hope to see you at the SBPSD Board meeting 7pm tonight where there will much discussion about the district's budget; including a report from an external financial auditor. Perhaps you can ask him do what degree he might (or might not) think that funds are are being wasted? Tonight's agenda is here... http://sbpsd.k12.ca.us/assets/docs/board-agenda.pdf One thought about your comments: - In our private business, we are able to turn away poor performers and unprofitable projects, public schools are obligated to educate all kids, and deliver on unfunded state requirements. In many ways, they are already micromanaged.

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