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School spending falls further behind rest of nation

California continues to fall behind other states when it comes to school funding.

Just how far? California now ranks 44th in how much it spends on its students – or $2,546 less than the average spent in the rest of the United States. That's the lowest it has been in 40 years compared to other states, in a depressing report from the California Budget Project.

The report calculates that just to bring California to the national average would require an extra $15.4 billion in spending – an increase of 29.5 percent. Those numbers underscore the impossibility of California catching up to the rest of the nation within any reasonable time period – if ever. 

In fact, if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has his way, California will fall even further behind the rest of the nation during the coming fiscal year.

Schwarzenegger is proposing to cut the basic amount school districts get for every student in attendance to $7,417, an 11 percent drop from $8,423 just two years ago (2008-09), according to a report by the legislative analyst's office.  

The report also provides some ammuniton for those pushing back against GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's assertion that 40 percent of education dollars don't make it into the classroom. The implication is that the funds are going to pay bureaucrats and other expenses extraneous to the educational process. 

In fact, California has a lower proportion of administrators compared to all but three other states. According to the California Budget Project report, California schools average 358 students per administrator – far below the 216 students per administrator in the rest of the United States. California also spends a greater share of its education dollars on instruction and student services than do schools in the rest of the U.S. – 95.3 cents of every education dollar, compared to 93.8 cents in the rest of the United States.  

By contrast, California spends 4.7 cents on each K-12 dollar on administration, food services and other expenses, while the rest of the country spends 6.2 cents on these same expenses. 

In one arena, California has managed to find itself dead last in the nation: the number of librarians per K-12 student. California has one librarian for every 5,038 students – a ratio six times worse than the U.S. at a whole, which averages one librarian for every 809 students. 

That was the ratio in 2007-08, the last year for which figures for librarians are available. As schools cut a range of school personnel even more deeply, even as California tries to motivate students to become literate, the state has nowhere further to fall, at least in rankings relative to other states.

Filed under: K–12, Daily Report

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