More than what?

Californians want to spend more money on education but have no idea how much the state spends already, writes Jill Stewart in the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to the NCES, California spent $7,552 per student in 2002-03. The national median was $7,574. We’re $22 short, so no wonder our kids are near the bottom in math and reading! Fresher NEA data mirrors the NCES data, showing in its “Rankings & Estimates” report that California in 2003-04 was in the exact middle, ranked 25th, and spending $7,692 per pupil. California voters imagine themselves to be well-informed. The PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California) poll says, “72 percent believe voters should make decisions about the budget and governmental reforms rather than abdicate that responsibility to the governor and Legislature … But when it comes to the budget, how much knowledge do residents bring to the table? Only 29 percent of Californians can identify the top category for state spending (K-12 education).”

California has a high cost of living, which means teachers must be paid more than in Iowa, and a higher percentage of educationally needy students,unlike low-spending Utah. Unlike Stewart, I don’t think average spending means California necessarily is spending enough. But the state is spending considerably more in real dollars than in the “good old days.”

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  1. Mike in Texas says:

    There could be other factors as well such as the cost of utilities, gas for buses, cost of food, furniture, etc.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I always wonder about numbers when the person compiling has an interest in the outcome.

  3. As usual, the figures being thrown around are too low by a significant percentage. Californians don’t pay in the mid 7000s per student – for the 2002-2003 school year they paid $8899/student. It’s almost definitely over 9000 per student by now.

    The mid 7000 figure is merely for CURRENT expenses. For the true figure, you have to hunt a bit. Per the NCES, California’s total expenditures for 2002-3 was $56,542,273,000:

    The total number of students were reportedly 6,353,667:

    Divide the two and you get 8899.

    Of course, that is likely low anyway. Another trick to make the per student figure look lower is to count anyone who spends a single day in a school as a year long student. Any kids who move during the school year are thus counted twice, drop outs are counted for the full year, homeschoolers in some places are counted whether they step foot in a school or not, etc.

  4. ragnarok says:

    rkayn is absolutely correct.

    If we’re going to discuss school funding we should at least use accurate figures. The LAO analysis shows that the initial request was $9,000 per pupil; the approved figure was almost certainly higher.

    For ’05, the current request is ~$10,214 per-pupil. As I’ve said elsewhere, these figures don’t include capital outlays, debt service, parcel taxes, pension payments to make up for underperforming investments, etc.

    This is more than many private schools charge.

    I too am amazed that the press often parrots the figures put out by the teachers’ union. When I asked a fairly well-known columnist to back up his figures, he pointed me at an NEA publication.

  5. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    I am a public school teacher in LA and I know firsthand the waste of tax dollars on a DAILY BASIS at our school (and our school is one of the better API test score schools), so I can only imagine that waste multiplied by thousands of schools in the state. As Tom McClintock said (he should have been our governor): “California does not have a revenue problem–we have a spending problem”. Throw the leftist bums out of the Legislature for a good first start. The people get the leadership they deserve.