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Is this serendipitous or what?

Just as two rival tax measures, both purporting to help struggling schools, qualified for the state's November ballot, the Census Bureau today released its annual report on school finance, revealing that California ranks 35th in per-pupil spending, more than $1,200 per year under the national average.

Furthermore, the Census Bureau report said, California ranks even lower - 42nd - in school spending vis-à-vis personal income.

The report provides new ammunition for Gov. Jerry Brown and civil rights attorney Molly Munger as they peddle their rival tax measures to voters. Brown says his sales and income tax boost would shield schools from deep spending cuts and increase it sharply over time. Munger's broader income tax measure would raise per-pupil spending for the state's 6 million public school students by more than $1,500 a year, roughly to the national average.

The Census Bureau report, covering the 2009-10 fiscal year, differs from the measures of per-pupil spending that are used in California's ceaseless political debates over the issue. The report includes all sources of income, including federal funds, whereas in state budget scoring, only state and local funds are counted and about $4 billion in state payments on school construction bonds and teachers' pensions are excluded.

Thus, the Census Bureau tagged California's $58.9 billion in 2009-10 "current spending" at $9,375 per pupil, which was $1,240 less than the national average of $10,675 and placed it 35th . The District of Columbia was highest at $18,667, followed by New York, Wyoming, New Jersey and Connecticut. Utah was lowest at $6,064.

Total California spending, including $7.2 billion in capital outlay and ancillary costs, was pegged at $68.1 billion.

In terms of revenue from all sources, California's $10,581 per pupil was 40th in the nation. Its revenue, some $65 billion, was calculated at 4.25 percent of personal income, while its spending, 3.77 percent of personal income, was 42nd. In relation to personal income, Alaska was tops in both revenue and spending.

The state government supplied $34.2 billion of school revenues in 2009-10, or 52.6 percent, which was higher than the national average of 43.5 percent. The federal government's 15 percent was also higher than the national average of 12.5 percent, while local source revenues at 32.5 percent were below the national average of 44 percent, reflecting Proposition 13's limits on local property taxes.

The report also provided details on how states divvied up school spending among different categories. Relatively speaking, the only two categories in which California rose above national per-pupil averages were in support staff and school administration.



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