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Report: With cost of living, CA ranks 42nd in per-pupil spending

Craig Clough | November 20, 2015

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California Budget & Policy CenterA new report from the California Budget & Policy Center found that when adjustments are made for cost of living, California ranked 42nd in the nation in per-pupil spending for the 2014-15 school year. The low ranking comes even after a surge in education spending in the state has brought billions more into the K-12 budget.

Without the cost of living adjustment, California ranked 29th in spending, at $10,139 per K-12 student, $1,900 less than the $12,040 national average.

The report found little for the state to celebrate, with California ranked:

  • 36th among all states in K-12 spending as a share of the state economy in 2014-15.
  • Last in the nation in the number of K-12 students per teacher in 2014-15. California’s student-to-teacher ratio was greater than 22-to-1, more than 40 percent higher than the national ratio of 15.5 students per teacher.
  • Last or close to last in the number of students per staff. California’s student-to-librarian ratio was more than 7,500-to-1 (ranking 51st), its student-to-guidance-counselor ratio was 785-to-1 (51st), and its student-to-administrator ratio was 312-to-1 (47th) in 2011-12, the most recent year for which data are available.

The report also noted that since California has the most students in the nation who are English learners and a high level of students from low-income families, and research shows that educating English learners and students from low-income families requires even greater investment.

“California should be spending more per student than other states to allow all of its students to reach state and national academic standards,” the report said.

The report also rings the alarm bell about Prop 30, a tax increase approved by voters that is responsible for the big increase in education spending.

The increases will decline after the 2015-16 school year, with the report pointing out, “This means that unless California voters extend Proposition 30’s tax increases or approve an alternative tax measure, the state’s schools will most likely receive relatively fewer dollars in the years ahead, raising the prospect that California’s school spending would fall even further behind the nation.”

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