BEHIND THE NUMBERSCalifornia has the 5th largest economy in the world and the largest GDP of any state, yet ranks near the bottom in nearly every measure of school funding or school staffing.
45th in percentage of taxable income spent on education
Percent of total taxable income spent on education
in per-pupil funding
$1,961 funding gap
Source: California Budget & Policy
Center through 2015-16
in pupil-teacher ratios
Pupils per teacher
135,041 teachers needed
to close the gap
Source: NEA (2015-16)
in pupil-staff ratio
All staff: students per staff member
213,711 staff needed
to close the gap
Source: NCES (2014-15)
If the state funded schools at just the national average, that would increase funding by $1,961 per pupil. For a classroom of 25 students, that’s an additional $49,025 for student support services (counselors, social workers, wellness centers), parent and community engagement, support for English learners, intervention programs, instructional support staff, class size reduction, CTE, and expanded offerings in the arts and other extracurriculars.
Student need and the high cost of living
The problems posed by California’s dismal school funding levels are compounded by the high level of student need and the state’s high cost of living: 58% of California’s public school students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch — above the national average of 52%.
Free or reduced-price lunch eligible
Source: California Dept. of Education Student Poverty FRPM Data (Mar 2016)
High percentage of English learner students
California also has the nation’s highest percentage of English learner students at 23% — more than twice the national average of 9%.
English learners (% of enrollment)
Source: NCES (2013-14)
California has one of the worst teacher-pupil ratios in the nation and some of the lowest overall staffing levels in the country.
|All Staff||Officials |
|Additional staff to close gap||238,781||5,469||4,695||28,456||5,186||4,909|
High spending on government, low spending on schools
LCFF is a step forward philosophically because it supports equity by directing more money to students with higher need. But redistribution is not a solution when the overall funding pie is much too small. California is a wealthy state with high incomes and a large, healthy economy that has chosen to invest more in other parts of government than it invests in schools.