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Is Gov. Brown Right to Dole Out Money to Schools Unequally?

Compare per student funding for school districts around Solano County.

This is what California public education looks like after the Great Recession: 

Between 2007 and 2010, the number of teachers in the state's K-12 classrooms shrunk by 11 percent. Reading specialists, librarians, and other school employees helping students learn declined by 14 percent. Front offices took the hardest blow, with the number of administrators dropping by 16 percent. All these cuts hit schools even as the total enrollment held steady at around 6.2 million students. 

Now that California is looking at its first budget without a deficit in five years, Gov. Jerry Brown's budget calls for restoring some money to the state's public schools. But, he does not want to distribute the money equally.

[For differences in per-student revenue between most school districts in Solano County during the 2010-11 school year, see the tables at the top of this article. The data comes from Ed-Data.]

"Aristotle said, 'Treating unequals equally is not justice.' And people are in different situations. Growing up in Compton or Richmond is not like it is to grow up in Los Gatos or Beverly Hills or Piedmont," Brown said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

There are already big differences in the sums school districts get from the state.

Consider two communities Brown mentioned, Piedmont and Richmond. In the 2010-11 school year, Piedmont received $12,287 for every student. The West Contra Costa Unified School District, which includes Richmond, received $9,735 per student.

But only $3,300 of Piedmont’s revenue came from the state. That’s about a third less than the average unified school district gets from Sacramento. Contra Costa Unified School District received $5,600 per student from the state, which is more than the statewide average.

Here’s how Piedmont made up the difference and then some: The $9.1 million that Piedmont raised that school year in parcel taxes was 7,589 percent higher than the statewide average.

Brown’s spending plan has a $3 billion more than last year for K-12 and community colleges, will that be enough to bridge the economic gap that contributes to the achievement gap, and ultimately becomes a cycle-reinforcing income gap? Does more money improve student performance? 

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Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Jason January 16, 2013 at 01:35 AM
Only in the mind of a liberal is equality unjust and people unequal.
David Johnston January 16, 2013 at 04:55 AM
"Does more money improve student performance? " Well, looking at 2011 API scores (also from Ed-Data) the answer is no. Median API Score (200 -1000) Benicia 882 Dixon 740 Fairfiled-Suisun 832 Travis 836 Vacaville 839 and Vallejo 757. You can't blame these numbers just on the teachers. You have to look at the students who come to school ready to learn, the parents who put value on an education, numbers of ESL students and overall demographics. There is certainly some sobering data on the Ed-Data web site.
Robert Livesay January 16, 2013 at 07:39 PM
The answer to school funding is OIL. Also all other funding issues. It will happen in the next 20+ years. Prop 30 is and will be a drop in the bucket. OIL will fill that bucket. Monterey shale field is the answer. New tech will make extraction very clean and accessible. What this field will do for California is beyond belief. As the oil flows debt goes away and our schools again become #1 in the USA. So lack of money will no longer be an excuse for poor scores. Keep your eye on this and do not let the Enviro Greenies try to stop this big money opportunity with modern tech for modern oil production. It is a gold mine waiting to happen.
Michelle Kye January 16, 2013 at 07:58 PM
I think Gov. Brown's idea is a good one. Equality in the distribution of funds is not the goal. The goal is to help all students succeed and some communities are going to need more help than others. Some communities will benefit more from city taxes, fundraising efforts, or parent involvement than others. A student attending school in Richmond may not have the same opportunities as a student in Benicia. I think it's okay to give extra help where it is especially needed.
Jason January 17, 2013 at 02:24 AM
What opportunities does a student in Richmond not have that a student in Benicia has, Michelle?
Chris January 17, 2013 at 05:41 AM
I wonder if the Jerry Brown tax would have passed if he said ahead of time, I'm giving the money to schools that I feel like giving it to. I would actually think the money would be spent more wisely by giving extra to the schools that have the best test scores, I mean if you are going to give it out unequally / unfairly !!!
JP January 17, 2013 at 07:25 AM
I agree completely with you, Michelle! We need to give a little extra help for those who are potentially less fortunate and do not have necessarily the ability/accessibility that more affluent students would have.
Chris January 18, 2013 at 07:13 AM
People that make more money pay more in tax that goes to the schools. What you're saying is even though they have already paid more to the schools, they should find other ways to fund the difference. Forgive me if I'm not happy to pay more than my share and then find other financing options for my local school..
Robert Livesay January 18, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Everyone seems to think the answer is more money. Well as I said get out of the way and lets start drilling for that oil in the Monterey shale oil field. There is your answer for all the money you will every need for the schools. No more excuses, just results. It will be a very good test to see if money is the answer.

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