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So how does California compare to other states in measures of economic, fiscal, educational and personal wellbeing?

Not so well, it appears, according to new national study by a heavyweight academic consortium and another report from the U.S. Department of Education.

"The States Project" is a joint effort of Harvard University's Institute of Politics, the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government and the American Education Foundation. It gathered data on state and local government finances, educational attainment and other "fundamentals" to create the issue-by-issue and state-by-state comparisons.

Overall, California ranks 33rd among the state in what the project calls "best fundamentals," in which Virginia was No. 1 and Mississippi was No. 50.

California is also 33rd in debt - both formal state and local government debt plus unfunded liabilities for pensions and retiree health care - as a percentage of the state's overall economic output. The project put California's debt in the 30-plus percent category, or somewhere north of $600 billion, most of which is unfunded retiree benefit liability.

Coincidentally, the U.S. Department of Education also issued a report comparing the states on high school graduation rates and California doesn't do particularly well by that measure either, ranking 32nd with a 76 percent graduation rate, similar to that of most Southern states.

Iowa topped the states at 88 percent while the District of Columbia was lowest at 59 percent.

The new federal report - the first to use a uniform measurement system for all states - also confirms what California education officials already knew, that graduation rates vary widely among ethnic groups. For students of Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity, it's 89 percent, followed by whites at 85 percent, Latinos at 70 percent and black students at 63 percent.

Recent state graduation rate reports have used similar numbers. There are also wide variances among school districts, with some, such as giant Los Angeles Unified, struggling to top 50 percent. That reflects their large populations of non-white and "limited English proficiency" students, the latter having just a 51 percent graduation rate.



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