Term Paper: California's Educational Funding: Tragedy

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[. . .] " Of course, this means that the leader most in touch with the needs of the individual schools students is the one who will determine just where the state allocated funds are best spent. Additionally, the system also allows for such non-internal (school) factors that directly affect the student -- even outside of the school environment. For example, In Strembitsky's model, factors that impact the student also impact the level of funding each student brings (or attracts) to the school. These factors may include ESL needs, low income levels, and even special education needs.

Thus, as in the Seattle system, each child is "weighted" by number according to their requirements concerning identified "risk factors" or "funding factors." For example, students who come from characteristically affluent households, are free of special education requirements, and are native English speakers may receive an average score of one, while ESL, special ed or statistically poor student populations may be assigned numbers as high as nine. Depending on the average enrollment of each number set, the school is allocated funds.

Again, this is not to say that California schools should be funded based only on student characteristics. Of course, within any school there are funding needs that are not exclusively student performance driven (although many would argue that every aspect of the student's life is linked to school resources), but "overhead" driven -- based on material requirements (buildings, utilities, insurance, supplies, extra-curricular activities, etc.). Thus, based on student population, a "base amount" of funding would be given to each school independently of student numbers and weighted scores.

A further note and perhaps advantage of student-driven funding allocation is the fact that higher district level positions would be less necessary. After all, if the funding goes directly to the school, there is little need for an expensive bureaucratic overhead at the district level.

Regardless of the discussion of just how the funds should be allocated to the schools in California, there also remains the issue of whether the current level of funding available to the schools is adequate in the first place. After all, it matters little how many "student points" each school receives if the actual funds necessary to successfully run that school are simply not available. Unfortunately, again, the current state of events is just that. After all, one of the key components of the Governor's final "budget solution" was the decision to cut school spending in the state by a full $2 billion dollars (EdSource, 2004)." Of course, it is obvious, given the woeful state of many California schools, that cutting even more funding from their programs could hardly be beneficial.

Of course, one can understand at least in part, given the dire financial situation within the state, that school leaders would on some level accept the new cuts. Of course, this is even more true if one believes the Governor's promise to "compensate" schools when things "get better" in the state. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that the schools will see increased funding any time soon. Further, when one views the promised "breakdown" of the (hopefully) forthcoming funds, it certainly gives one pause -- making one wonder if a single penny will ever reach the classroom level.

Consider for example that:

In addition, the agreement specified that, when additional funding becomes available, it will be used for the following in priority order: 1) growth in enrollment and cost of living adjustments; 2) fully restoring the 3% cut in districts' general-purpose funding that the state imposed in 2003-04; 3) reimbursing districts for costs incurred in satisfying state mandates if districts' claims withstand an audit; and 4) splitting any remaining funds 75%/25% between general-purpose increases and other state priorities (EdSource).

Indeed, even if California were to "pay back" its state schools for its temporary budget driven cuts, it is doubtful that the funding would still be sufficient for the dire needs of Californian children. After all, according to the Legislative Analysts Office, "about one in three California students attends an overcrowded school, or one in need of significant modernization (LAO, 2004)." Further, the state's financial state, and commitment to the schools is particularly dubious at the moment. Consider for example:

According to the State Allocation Board, the cost to address these pressing school facility needs is about $30 billion, with the state's share of cost exceeding $17 billion. Because less than $2 billion of state school construction bond funds remain uncommitted, the state will need to raise more than $15 billion to pay its share of these school facility costs (LAO).

A further problem with the literal adequacy of the California school funding system is its inconsistency due to overall state budget problems. Unfortunately, the financial funding of each school in California is dependent upon bonds and budget issues that cycle through a "good times/bad times" cycle which is not only unfair for the students who are going through a "not good" time, but unfair for the overall performance of the schools themselves which suffer under their own inconsistency.

Assuming, however, that some day in the near future, the state of California might be able to compensate schools for the budget problems, there remains the ability of those involved in the issue to "equitably" as opposed to "equalize" the education of each student. Not only is this important, but it is necessary for the continued improvement of California students. Take for example, the presiding Judge's remarks in the 1976 Serrano v. Priest case in which he stated:

Substantial disparities in expenditures per pupil among school districts cause and perpetuate substantial disparities in the quality and extent of availability of educational opportunities. For this reason the school financing system before the court fails to provide equality of treatment to all the pupils in the state. Although an equal expenditure level per pupil in every district is not educationally sound or desirable because of differing educational needs, equality of educational opportunity requires that all school districts possess an equal ability in terms of revenue to provide students with substantially equal opportunities for learning. (18 Cal.3d 728 L.A. No. 30398)

The simple fact is that current system (within a bigger flawed system) is currently inadequate due to inadequate levels of funding as well as inadequate methods of distribution of funds. Further, the current system, which operates on a "costing-out" protocol based on "model schools" or districts prohibits the California funding system from be equitable. This is simply because to make the assumption that the same amount of funds should produce the same result in all schools across the stage is absurd. Again, throwing a million dollars at a school in middle-class suburbia is very different from throwing the same amount at a school in the heart of a big city like LA. Clearly, the school with more "issues" will use up the funds much more quickly than its more geologically bless counterpart.

Finally, it is also important to note the fact that the origin of the funds that go to the schools in California are largely based on property taxes. Of course those children who live in the poorest neighborhoods are hardly likely to come from families that spend large amounts of taxes based on their homes and land. Thus, those children will necessarily lose under the system.

In conclusion, the current method of funds allocation for K-12 schools is completely inadequate. Thus, instead of allowing the system to work according to the current criteria, a new model should be adopted. This means that, instead of the more "project" driven funding approach, a more student-focused model should be implemented. Further, funding must be based upon something other than local property taxes -- or at least less tied to local property taxes. After all, a child that lives in a mansion is less likely to need the same amount of educational funding that an inner-city "project" dweller might. Unfortunately, equal does not always equal adequate. The simple fact is that some students and schools just need more money than their wealthier, more solid candidates. Sure, giving the inner city more funds is not equal, but it is, to quote the new funding buzzword, adequate...and that is what the new "educational era" must strive to be.


Bell, Tom. (2004). "Fort Bragg Schools Feel Sting of Proposition 13." Maine Today. Retrieved on September 26, 2004, from, http://news.mainetoday.com/indepth/taxreform/040516taxschools.shtml

Ed Source. (2004). "California School Finance News." Retrieved on September 26, 2004, from, http://www.edsource.org/edu_fin_cal.cfm#budget

RPPI. Reason Public Policy Institute. (2004). "Restructuring California's School Finance System." Web site. Retrieved on September 26, 2004, from, http://www.rppi.org/schoolfinance.shtml

Sacramento Bee. Staff Reporters. "Unfathomable: School Funding Mess Needs Simplifying." Sacramento Bee Online. Retrieved on September 26, 2004, from, http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/projects/paying_for_schools/story/7896515p-8834875c.html

LAO. Legislative Analysts Office. (2004), "A New Blueprint for California School Facility Finance." Retrieved on September… [END OF PREVIEW]

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