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Home / School Finance Indicators Database

California scores 37th in country for K-12 education funding

California ranks 37th out of 48 states for spending on K-12 education – according to a new report from Rutgers University, the University of Miami, and the nonprofit Albert Shanker Institute.

The annual School Finance Indicators Database found that California is spending more than 14% less than it did before the great recession of 2008.

Report co-author Professor Bruce Baker of the University of Miami said California is considered a “low-effort” state because its spending on education is not commensurate with its economic might.

“They’ve improved in the last few years, but they were in such a hole for so long because of tax and expenditure limits imposed in the late 70’s – Prop 13,” said Baker. “So, California’s effort is still below the national average.”

The report finds that 69% of students in California live in underfunded school districts, and 32% in chronically underfunded districts.

However, California fares better – ranking 14th in the country – on shrinking the so-called “opportunity gap,” which measures the difference between the highest- and lowest-funded school districts.

Congress allocated billions to help schools weather the pandemic.

Mary Cathryn Ricker, president of the Albert Shanker Institute, said although the federal government did allow states to budget that money into successive school years, the investment is running out and there is no consistent long-term funding plan to replace it.

“Right now, everyone is concerned about the so-called fiscal cliff coming when federal pandemic aid runs out,” said Ricker. “But school funding in most states actually fell off a fiscal cliff 15 years ago and never got back up.”

For the coming fiscal year, California faces a $38 billion deficit. Nonetheless, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $291 billion budget proposal avoids cuts to K-12 schools, which serve almost 6 million students.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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