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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 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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