California spent far more than any other state on K-12 education in 2011, but its per-pupil spending was $1,421 below the national average, putting it 36th in the nation, according to a new Census Bureau report.
The Capitol's ceaseless debates over school spending usually count only state and local funds, and education advocates say by that measure, after adjustment for California's high cost of living, the state ranks near the bottom vis-à-vis per-pupil spending in the other states. But the Census Bureau calculates revenue from all sources, including the federal government, and spending of all types, including capital outlay.
Gov. Jerry Brown is attempting to overhaul how state and local school funds are distributed, giving more to districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students. His latest budget revision pegs per-pupil spending in 2011-12 from state and local revenues at $7,175 and says it would rise to $9,929 by 2016-17, thanks largely to tax increases approved by voters last year.
The Census Bureau says that "current spending" in California in 2011 was $57.9 billion or $9,139 per pupil, plus another $8.9 billion in capital outlay and miscellaneous spending, such as interest on bonds. That brought the state's total to $66.8 billion or $10,774 per pupil. The spending total was easily the nation's highest, followed by New York at $59.2 billion and Texas at $52.5 billion.
The "current spending" number of $9,139 was 36th highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. New York was the highest at $19,076,Utah was lowest at $6,212 and the national average was $10,560.
Closing the gap between California and the national average, $1,421, for the state's 6.2 million K-12 students would cost $8.8 billion a year. Matching No. 1 New York would cost another $61.6 billion a year, more than doubling the state's school spending. Brown's budget envisions school spending increasing by $19 billion a year between 2011-12 and 2016-17, when the extra taxes would expire.
The Census Bureau also compared school spending to each state's personal income, which in California was pegged at $1.6 trillion in 2009 and is believed to be about $1.8 trillion this year, according to the governor's budget.
Based on the 2009 data, the Census Bureau calculated California's "current spending" on schools in 2011, which does not include capital outlay and other ancillary costs, at 3.6 percent of personal income, lower than all but five other states and the District of Columbia. The national average was 4.2 percent, with Alaska highest at 7 percent and the District of Columbia lowest at 2.2 percent.
PHOTO CREDIT: First-grader Robert Olvera raises his hands during a math lesson in his classroom at Raymond Case Elementary School in Elk Grove, Calif. on April 18. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench