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Kids in a classroom. (Photo: Shutterstock/Syda Productions)

California Education Budget: Graded F-

Even with the fourth largest economy in the world, Californians can’t find any basic public service the State successfully provides

By John Maniaci, September 5, 2023 3:39 pm

Kids – it is always about the children. Better schools, better programs, more safety, less discipline, less stress; take your pick and you have probably heard someone speak on its importance and their fight to fix the problem. Because, why not? Who is going to stand against a person fighting to better the lives and education of our youth?

California has now reviewed and voted on the State Budget, based on the Governor Newsom’s May Revise. The proposal to address the $31.5 billion deficit is borrowing against other state funds, proposing more taxes, reductions and pullbacks of last year funds, and bonds. So here we are again, back to the old routine of deficit spending and creating a shell game of internal borrowing all in the name of passing a balanced budget. The difference this time around is doubling down on putting off needed maintenance on schools, also known as deferred maintenance.

The doubling down on deferring maintenance started in 2009 and the recession. The California Legislature followed the established practice of deferring maintenance in public schools to balance the budget shortfalls, as well as many other budgetary moves. This deferral of billions in maintenance at our public schools results in collapsing ceilings, rotting drywalls from leaking roofs, and air filtration systems that fail to provide bacteria free clean air to our classrooms. As of 2021 the state was still $12.5 billion behind on backfilling those deferrals from 2009. Despite a surplus of over $100 billion from 2021 to 2023, California is now going back to directing our public schools to more deferrals, to address the shortfall in revenue this year.

While California spends more money on its public schools than the entire national spending of 195 countries around the world ($127.2 billion) and with that is merely average for it’s per pupil spending in the nation, we have somehow managed to accomplish the WORST literacy rate in the nation, and the lowest average graduation rate in the nation. Maybe that is due to the fact we have the second lowest pupil to teacher ratio in the country and are tied for 43rd in the nation for highest percentage of threatened or injured students in the nation. So what is the response of California’s leadership in these hard budget times?

Education bonds, more debt to address the spending cuts and deferrals. Debt that would remove the ability to use full funding in future years, hampering our ability to address future needs. Bonds cover-up the poor financial judgements of the past two years and remove the economic strength of our future. Past bonds have been hampered from being used, tied up in regulatory backlog, and water-downed to the point of no impact. Just look at the $2.7 billion bond passed in 2014 for water storage, it is still sitting without use or application almost a decade later.

Families and business owners must be scratching their head at a government that refuses to fully fund and backfill deferrals during good years, while eagerly taking out debt during tough years. With over $100 billion in surplus over the course of 2021-2022, California could have fully funded and addressed any single issue in the state and solved the problem. Instead, what do we have to show for it? Crumbling schools, worse homelessness, and thriving crime.

California is the fourth largest economy in the world, yet we cannot point to any basic public service that we are succeeding at addressing. If we are keen on just throwing money at a wall and expecting it to move, maybe we should apply some good-ole-fashion common-sense budgeting to put our money where our priorities are. It is time to start funding our schools and the backlog of deferrals, while also investing in our future and succeeding in our public needs.

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3 thoughts on “California Education Budget: Graded F-

  1. Democrats do not look to succeed they look to equitize all and if that means everything is low scored then they reached equity (easier to control the people)

  2. Local bond issues and parcel taxes for local school construction get pushed on local voters by the teachers unions. However, with so many parents of students now being illegals who cannot vote (60-80% of K-12 enrollments), this now becomes an uphill battle for the teachers unions.

    The rest of us are thoroughly disgusted with what the teachers unions did to our formerly great California public education system.

    Why is Prop 98 not adequately already funding school infrastructure – 50% of all general funds automatically go to public education. Who is getting that money, if none is left over for leaking roofs?

  3. What I have learned in the last five decades is that every single extra dollar spent on the public schools system in California is a dollar wasted. And of the money spent at least two thirds is wasted. When compared to the private school system.

    Over the last few decades the spending per public in real terms has doubled but the quality of education in public schools especially the big city USD’s has gone from below average to the worst in the nation. There is no correlation between money spent and outcome, In fact quite the opposite..

    My kids went to private schools because there was no alterative. The local Sf public schools were so bad that the majority of public school teachers with kids sent their kids to private schools. Most parents who can send their kids to private schools do. Currently the majority of white kids in SF go to private schools. And in the near future it will the same kind of numbers for Asians as they build out their own private system. Anyone who cares about their kids education do not send their kids to a USD public school.

    When Jerry Brown gave collective bargaining right to the teachers unions he handed over the running of the schools to the teachers unions. So now the education of the pupils just a distraction from the true purpose of public schools giving employment to very large numbers of people who would not find jobs with those high pay and benefits in the private sector. The majority of which in USD’s are administrators not even teachers. In fact in USD at most 25% of employees actually teach.

    Serrano v. Priest gutted local financing of pubic schools back in the early 1970’s so they became totally dependent on the state. This was way before Prop 13. The teachers union take over of the schools started in 1975. What the last 20 years has proved is that public schools are unreformable. Shut them down. They failed. Give even half the money per student currently wasted on public schools and their kids will get a far better education in the private system than they ever could ever hope to get in a USD public school system.

    But its not going to happen as long as the teachers unions and other related unions give so much money to so many state politicians. They dont give a damn about education of kids. Not since the 1960’s. Its just one giant waste of tax payers money. Which has harmed if not destroyed the future of millions of kids over the decades.

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