Boost in California Education Budget Not Reflected in Results

Despite a continually increasing budget, the California education system has not shown much progress in the last 10 years. Since 1970, the states’ education budget has increased by 80% to its current amount of $152.3 billion.

However, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, the “Nation’s Report Card”, California shows no improvement in the areas of reading and math.  The state’s fourth graders were ranked 47th out of 50 in these two areas in 2013.  Eighth-graders ranked 45th in math, and 42nd in reading.

The testing also shows a higher-than-average educational gap between white and Latino children.  In 2013. that gap reached 30 points among black and white fourth graders.  The national average is 26 points.

This large gap could be why the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued school districts in Compton and Los Angeles; districts that mainly have low-income children.

“Something as basic as learning time – real learning time – is disproportionately distributed to kids as a function of their ZIP Code,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California. “The kids who go to these seven schools have a set of challenges that kids in schools elsewhere could never dream of, let alone confront.”

While the schools in question get per-pupil funding, students are often packed into oversized classes led by substitutes, where they receive no actual instruction.

According to California Governor Jerry Brown, a higher education budget will offer schools more control over spending, which should lessen these issues.

However, Lisa Snell for The Orange County Register reports that the state needs to spend smarter, not simply more.  Principals should have the authority to decide how to use funding most effectively within their own schools.  Parents should be allowed to decide which school best fits their child, and not have to place their child in a school because it is geographically convenient.

Plans for this year’s budget include increases in spending from kindergarten through high school.  Community colleges will also see increased spending for non-credit courses.  Preschools and day cares will also see extra funding of $2.1 billion.

Some private day care providers, like Marta Delgado, say the funding is not enough.  With the extra funding primarily reaching state-run preschools, the private providers are left suffering.  For decades now, the program has gone without any extra funding, causing less pay for providers like Delgado.  The national average for child-care workers in 2013 was $24,680, according to the US Department of Labor.

“We call them California’s primary brain-builders,” Coral Itzcalli from Raising California Together said. “They’re setting the stage for the children to be successful academically and just be good people.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is also working hard to push a bill that would guarantee three paid sick days for all workers in California.  If passed, California would be the second state in the nation to require paid sick days.  Connecticut already has this law in place.

“This is a top issue for working mothers, and I know how they feel because I’m a single mom,” Gonzalez said. “If the school nurse calls and says your child has a fever, you have to take off work. But for some people, the lost wages are equivalent to next month’s grocery budget.”

This year will also begin a 32-year plan to fully fund the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which reached $189.1 billion.