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

Palo Alto gets a paltry amount of money from the state.

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 Santa Clara 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? 

Cupertino USD Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school districts State Aid $1,051 31% Local Property Taxes $4,092 207% Federal Revenue $549 67% Other State Revenue $1,001 67% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,136 155% Total $7,829 92%

Fremont Union High School District Revenue for 2010-11

Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for high school districts State Aid -$20 0% Local Property Taxes $7,778 247% Federal Revenue $249 28% Other State Revenue -$223 0% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,202 169% Total $8,986 92% Los Altos SD Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school districts State Aid $7 0% Local Property Taxes $5,903 299% Federal Revenue $414 45% Other State Revenue $491 33% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $3,190 434% Total $10,005 118% Mountain View Whisman SD Revenue for 2010-2011 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for elementary school district State Aid -$4 0% Local Property Taxes $5,490 278% Federal Revenue $572 62% Other State Revenue $1,072 72% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $2,221 302% Total $9,352 110% Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School Revenue for 2010-11 Source  $ Amount per student % Statewide average for high school districts State Aid -$14 0% Local Property Taxes $11,727 372% Federal Revenue $437 49% Other State Revenue $1,400 94% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,448 204% Total $14,998

154%

Palo Alto USD Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Amount per student % Statewide average for unified school districts State Aid $168
5% Local Property Taxes $9,561 491% Federal Revenue $443 40% Other State Revenue $691 35% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $2,892 544% Total $13,755

152%

Source: California Department of Education, Ed-Data

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Amy Zucker Morgenstern January 16, 2013 at 03:46 PM
"Is Gov. Brown right . . . ?" Of course he is. This headline, with its clear bias toward "no," sounds like the mythical parents who put all the kids, from 4 to 14, to bed at 7:30 because that's the youngest's bedtime and it's the "fair" thing. An internet meme has three people, tall, medium, and short, using six boxes to look over a fence at a ballgame. In the first frame, each is standing on two boxes, and the tall one can see over with lots of room to spare, the medium one can just peep over, and the short one is no better off than if he'd been standing on the ground. In the second, they've rearranged the boxes so that the short one is standing on three, the medium one on two, and the tall one on one, and they can all see over. Distributing the same number of dollars to all communities would be taking the first approach. I'd much rather live in a state that used the second approach, like Brown and Aristotle.
Paul Berry January 16, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Yes.

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