Capitol Alert

California school boards say up to $42 billion more needed

Tagging along like a team of ducklings, Beth Mahony leads a group of neighborhood elementary school kids home from Heron School in North Natomas as part of the "Walking School Bus" program.
Tagging along like a team of ducklings, Beth Mahony leads a group of neighborhood elementary school kids home from Heron School in North Natomas as part of the "Walking School Bus" program. lsterling@sacbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown’s new budget would boost spending on K-12 schools by several billion dollars, but the California School Boards Association says that’s a small fraction of what’s needed to adequately prepare the state’s six million students for jobs and higher education.

The CSBA released a report Wednesday asserting, “California is underfunding K-12 schools by as much as $42 billion per year.”

That would be an extra $7,000 per student on top of the $10,591 that Brown’s 2016-17 budget projects will be spent on each from state and local funds and push California’s per-pupil spending to one of the nation’s highest levels.

Right now, our school finance system places our children at a huge competitive disadvantage.

CSBA president Chris Ungar

Raising K-12 spending has been one of Brown’s major interests since reassuming the governorship after a 28-year hiatus. Already, his budget documents say, per-pupil spending has increased by 50-plus percent since 2011 and totals $14,550 when federal funds, teacher retirement contributions and school bond payments are included.

The CSBA’s report, however, says its studies mirror earlier surveys by the Public Policy Institute of California and the American Institute for Research, which were aimed at determining what it would take to raise California students’ generally sub-par performance on national academic tests to an adequate level.

“There is a direct correlation between what we invest in our schools and our schools’ ability to prepare the next generation for college, career and civic life. Right now, our school finance system places our children at a huge competitive disadvantage,” CSBA president Chris Ungar, a school board member in San Luis Obispo County, said in an accompanying statement.

“By nearly every measure, be it funding, staffing, or infrastructure, we’re lagging behind other states and countries in terms of the support we provide our students. We need to jumpstart a discussion among elected officials and the public about once and for all devoting the resources necessary to ensure the success of all California students.”

The $42 billion figure would be the equivalent of a 50 percent increase in personal income taxes, or more than a doubling of sales and corporate income taxes. Raising taxes by that amount would also make California, by far, the highest taxing state in the nation.

6th California’s tax burden ranking for the 2012 fiscal year, according to the Tax Foundation

Coincidentally, the Tax Foundation also released its latest tax burden report on Wednesday, saying that California ranked 6th among the states, with state and local taxes equating to 11 percent of Californians’ personal incomes during the 2012 fiscal year.

New York was highest at 12.7 percent of income. Adding $42 billion in new taxes would push California over 13 percent.

Education groups, principally the California Teachers Association, will be asking voters in November to extend the temporary income tax rate hike on high-income taxpayers that was approved in 2012. The extension would generate about $8 billion a year for schools and medical services, with some going into the state’s “rainy day fund” reserve.

The CSBA report also is being released as the Legislature begins work on the budget that Brown proposed last week. Many Democratic legislators have complained that the budget shortchanges health and welfare services to the poor and some have publicly lamented that the schools, under a constitutional school finance law adopted by voters in 1988, are soaking up so much of the state’s recent revenue surge.

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