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

Compare per student funding for Lamorinda and Walnut Creek schools.

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 revenues between Lamorinda and Walnut Creek schools during the 2010-11 school year, see the tables at the bottom of this article.]

"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.

Brown wants to give more money to schools serving poor students, English language learners and children in foster care. 

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.

Acalanes Union High School District received $255 per student from the state in 2010-11. That's 7 percent of the average for California's high school districts. A parcel tax provided $1,969 for every student in the district, which is 3,000 percent higher than the statewide average. 

Brown’s spending plan has $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? 


Lafayette Elementary Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ Per student % of elementary average  State Aid $993 30% Local Property Taxes and Fees $4,024 204% Federal Revenue $496 53% Other State Revenue $931 63% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $2,090 285% Total $8,535 101% Moraga Elementary Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student % of elementary average State Aid $1,309 39% Local Property Taxes and Fees $3,681 186% Federal Revenue $232 25% Other State Revenue $985 66% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $2,751 375% Total $8,958 106% Orinda Union Elementary Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student % of elementary average State Aid $1,608 48% Local Property Taxes and Fees $3,480 176% Federal Revenue $409 44% Other State Revenue $943 63% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $4,113 560% Total $10,554 125% Walnut Creek Elementary Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student % of elementary average State Aid  $585 18% Local Property Taxes and Fees $412 228% Federal Revenue $596 64% Other State Revenue $806 54% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $1,231 168% Total $7,730 91% Acalanes Union High Revenue for 2010-11 Source $ per student  % of high school district average State Aid $255 7% Local Property Taxes and Fees $5,888 187% Federal Revenue $371 41% Other State Revenue $860 58% Other Local Revenue (includes parcel taxes) $3,284 463% Total $10,658 109%

Source: California Department of Education, Ed-Data

Bailey Lee January 13, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Agreed: "I would bet if you swapped the entire school faculty and staff of the lowest performing school in the state with a Lamorinda school, the Lamorinda kids would still be high performers. The schools are good here, because people move here for the schools and the people here make the schools a priority -- and it is those attitudes and pressures that makes the schools good, not necessarily the schools themselves. (And not to disparage the local faculties, which are indeed terrific,)" but the converse (no matter how much money and how great the teachers, etc) is NOT true.
Jeff Raleigh January 13, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Please note that Oakland Schools spend more than $17,000 per student and San Francisco more than $14,000. Money isn't the answer, parenting is.
Chris Nicholson January 13, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Is >$17K/student really true for Oakland? That would be shocking. See: http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/App_Resx/EdDataClassic/fsTwoPanel.aspx?#!bottom=/_layouts/EdDataClassic/finance/RevenueSources.asp?reportNumber=4&level=06&County=01&district=61259
Dive Turn Work January 13, 2013 at 07:19 PM
The state would fund the students that flee poor neighborhoods. These kids would have plenty of parental involvement, a plus. Only an involved parent would send their kid to a different school district. This setup is not the problem facing SF schools & it's not why parents fled. Besides, Lisa, you could flee our schools is you were unhappy. Children should not be forced into terrible schools simply because of their address. Parents who recognize the value of education & are willing to go through the hassle of getting their kid to a better district should be encouraged & state funding dollars should transfer with that kid.
Dive Turn Work January 13, 2013 at 07:21 PM
So much stupidity all rolled up into one burrito. Nice.
Dive Turn Work January 13, 2013 at 07:25 PM
I would also favor vouchering out students who wanted to attend a private school. Let them take their school dollars with them.
Dive Turn Work January 13, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Leaving the public school system isn't necessarily a bad thing in the majority of our state. Students & parents should be allowed to flee, especially in poor performing districts, & their per student funding should follow them to the private schools. Often times, the private sector is a better provider of services & we shouldn't discourage parents, especially in poor neighborhoods, from pursuing this option. Trapping students who want a better school shouldn't be "the American way." We need a highly educated workforce & we aren't getting that now. Something must change but stealing money from high performing districts & giving it to low performing districts shouldn't be the answer.
Dive Turn Work January 13, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Foster kids shouldn't be given extra money. Foster kids should be sent to the highest performing district in their area & their funds directed to that school. Those kids are already behind the 8-ball through no fault of their own & we shouldn't expand their dire outcomes by trapping them in terrible schools & simply giving that school more money.
lisa January 13, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Actually, Dive you are incorrect. This lottery system of SFUSD is EXACTLY why most families with children leave the City. My own child didn't' get into our neighborhood school when I lived in the City and was given a school about 5 miles away. We ended up having him attend a private Catholic school instead. Tell me that this doesn't impact families and working parents. I am perfectly happy and impressed with the local schools in Lafayette. I donate thousands a year so we can have supplementary science, art, music education, and yearly student plays. There is a lot of parental involvement and funding (which indeed makes all the difference). If you are suggesting that the state should be handing out money to encourage individuals from Antioch for example, that want to send their children to better schools, then you better pony up for paying for added teachers, larger class sizes, bigger schools, and traffic issues out of your own pocket! Sorry, but your assertion that we should be paying for low income families from out of town to send their kids to Lamorinda schools is utter nonsense. On side note more in step with the original topic; I'm perfectly fine with paying more out of my own pocket via donations/volunteering etc. for our own schools (since we are a higher socio-economic demographic) and allowing lower income schools to get more funding from the state.
KFrances January 13, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Agenda 21 is shutting down the suburbs. I believe DTW says 'let them take take their dollars with them' because in the future no dollars will be directed for suburban kids anyways. Every move that is made now at the state and local level is one of dangerous centralization, regionalization. This is the World Bank/IMF/UN Global Plan to strip America through legislation and propoganda.
Dive Turn Work January 13, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Lisa - I don't propose a lottery system. A lottery system is absurd. I propose that every parent should be able to enroll their child in whatever school they wish. Children should never be limited to a school based on their address. The per child funding should follow the child - not the school. If more students enroll in Lamorinda schools then Lamorinda schools get more cash.
Dive Turn Work January 13, 2013 at 08:26 PM
I say let them take their dollars with them because the dollars should flow to the child and not to the school. Schools without borders.
Bailey Lee January 13, 2013 at 08:39 PM
@DTW That's a totally stupid idea as it stands. There's no extra capacity in any "high performing" district and no money available to build any more. Why should any student be entitled to more state help than any other?
KFrances January 13, 2013 at 08:57 PM
NDAA 2013 Takes The Final protection from suburban kids and all children: The Most important article by Chris Hedges: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_final_battle_20121223// Cases like this show the overreach of our Police State: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/12/16485181-family-of-aaron-swartz-government-officials-partly-to-blame-for-his-death? or Al Gore's successor: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2013/01/201311381040348327.html It is not easy to speak up but I, like many others have realized that the only hope for Lamorinda and California is to stick together under this tyranny as the U.S. is being destroyed from within through legislation and very sneaky propoganda..ie blogs. power is in the people and that's why I and many others are trying to alert people to the grave danger we are in... CA and the Bay Area in particular are being used to roll out their Global Governance and the .001% is laughing all the way to the bank in their Teslas. p.s. I am not a fan of class warfare by the way but I do do think it is ironic that they are so sneaky as to USE the Green Movement and Money to Control people and herd them in to human only zones.
Valerie Sloven January 13, 2013 at 09:52 PM
Oh oh, someone lost the plot.
lisa January 13, 2013 at 10:37 PM
I was thinking the same thing....
Dive Turn Work January 13, 2013 at 11:20 PM
I'm not proposing anyone receive extra help. I'm proposing that everyone have free choice and attend the school of their choosing. Absent that, public education should be disbanded and the function turned over to the private sector.
KFrances January 13, 2013 at 11:45 PM
um...no..tisk tisk patronizing attitude... ...it's about our suburban kids and this is a Big part of Their Plan. A Big Part.
Triple Canopy January 14, 2013 at 12:45 AM
'Now that California is looking at its first budget without a deficit in five years,....." ONLY BECAUSE OF A TAXPAYER BAILOUT OF THE STATE'S INEPT FISCAL POLICIES!!! The voters have been duped again. Suck it up liberals.... is not Brown's aim to redistribute the funds to targeted groups consistent with Obama's philosophy to "spread the wealth"?
KFrances January 14, 2013 at 12:53 AM
...and I'm afraid we (me included) dedicated, civic minded volunteers, trying to do the right thing by our schools, environment, and always... have lost the plot too btw. We have lost the forest through the trees. I think we've been had. People need to know there are over arching powers and the protections we have always had as Americans to navigate things like school funding, are being stripped rapidly - it is a red alert situation. they are starting to steamroll everything because they know they CAN... and this will start turning back on all of us - they are starting with us - we are on the front lines in suburban schools in the Bay Area. Decisions are being made FOR us...as they take more power because they can. I just hope people can stay open to the possibility of what's really going on here. The only hope is in each individual soul and open mindedness by each individual. Why are they taking more money and redistributing ? Why ? Is that a Socialist Model ? Is it a neo - Feudalism ? What is it ? We have to stop somewhere and hopefully we are hitting the thresholds to wake up that we are becoming an un-Republic, un-Deomocratic country as we drone bomb (many innocent children) in other countries with our fake Democracy now btw. So Sick. Together we can at least save the suburban schools in CA - it is one of the last hard fought places for some hope for the future. Be open and honest with everyone you know
lisa January 14, 2013 at 01:20 AM
Oh....okay then. "Their plan". I hope you mean Natasha and Boris!...That dastardly duo!! Thanks for foiling their evil plot for us!! Uh...suburban--you mean like Vallejo...Fairfield? They'll ruin us! Dag nabbit.
Dive Turn Work January 14, 2013 at 02:11 AM
Your argument assumes there's really a budget without a deficit. It's hocus pocus. There is no balanced budget. Never has been one.
KFrances January 14, 2013 at 04:05 AM
Again I ask - is it Communism, Feudalism, Fascism...or a hybrid ? It is not Democracy or a Republic. There are 1,131 school districts in CA and they are targeting and penalizing the very few and far between successful ones doing it with less year after year. From all the fundraising I've done I can tell you that people will not be able to make up the difference. Gov. Brown thinks he can turn our schools into 'Private', (another tax) with kids behind gates, but people will just leave the State. People will say 'let them leave' - but it's really unfortunate to lose so many producers for the whole state. CA will just collapse in on itself. People getting wiped out kicked out removed by tax from their schools, homes and California. It is criminal because 'they' wrap it in Propoganda and 'Greater Good' sustainability talk. 'Dictator' legislation is DESTROYING California. The Royal Court are the Central Banks...and that does include the IMF/World Bank/UN policy of Agenda 21. Read the 3rd paragraph under 'Impact on Environment' and see just one example of how International Blackmail is destroying California: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Monetary_Fund The last and only hope is the Individual, even if maligned...made fun of...berated and humiliated.
KFrances January 14, 2013 at 04:06 AM
Well then I guess we're being lied to...
c5 January 14, 2013 at 02:15 PM
and that would be the end of the public school system in this state...which maybe isn't that bad an outcome?
c5 January 14, 2013 at 02:17 PM
are we now talking about solar panels on schools??
c5 January 14, 2013 at 02:19 PM
what you think what you hear from our govt is the absolute truth? there is always an agenda, including the pomp and circumstance about the balanced budget...
Alex Gronke (Editor) January 14, 2013 at 03:41 PM
George Skelton, the LA Times' Sacramento columnist, blasts Brown's education spending plan in his Monday column. Here's the lede: "Robbing Peter in the suburbs to pay Paul in the inner city seems politically perilous. Even unjust." http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cap-budget-20130114,0,2017690.column
Chris Nicholson January 14, 2013 at 04:08 PM
The article also reveals (or reminds-- I guess it was't Top Secret) that Brown intended ALL ALONG to push this agenda in connection with Prop 30. Apparently he was convinced to wait until AFTER Prop 30 to pass before pitching the new funder formula as the "other shoe." From a marketing perspective, "raise taxes on the rich, take money from the middle class schools and send it to LAUSD to educate the children of illegals" apparently didn't poll well. but that's the net net of all of this. If you adjust for the cost of educating the children of illegals, CA spending per pupil is about average. Now, on top of this singular budget-busting factor, he proposes to take ADDITIONAL money from the rest of the system to INCREASE this imbalance? This is utopian and bizarre. If we want an immigration policy in the U.S. that lures people not just with EQUAL access to public schools but with PREFERENTIAL funding for their children, then that should be a national conversation to yield a national policy with national funding.
Ophelia OBrien January 14, 2013 at 06:43 PM
One of the bigger problems is that this redistribution plan does not encourage poorer performing schools to improve, because once they improve, they will lose the excess funding....and likely return to poor performance. Improve your ESL scores, lose funding. Improve your API scores, lose funding. Where is the incentive to improve? Education is a partnership between teachers, school administrators, students AND parents. In general, if the parent is not involved, the student is not engaged. If the teacher is not involved, the student is not engaged. There are students in poor performing districts who have involved parents and go on to college educations. Brown is trying to use money to patch the hole of uninvolved parenting.


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