Graphic by 'Quality Counts 2015'

Along with providing spending data. Education Week's Quality Counts analyzes a range of education data in calculating a state an overall grade: D+ in California's case.

Education Week’s annual state rankings on K-12 education had welcome, though outdated, news for California: No longer rock-bottom, California moved from 50th to 46th in per-student state spending in 2011-12, the latest data cited.

That was the year before school districts felt the benefits of the temporary tax increases from Proposition 30, which voters passed in November 2012, and of a rebounding economy. In the state budget scheduled for release Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to announce K-12 and community college education spending that will be 39 percent higher than it was in 2011-12. Unless other states have increased that much, California’s ranking will rise in coming years.

Often cited by proponents of more education funding in California, Education Week’s Quality Counts report uses 3-year-old spending data that is adjusted to factor in regional costs of living, primarily 2012 federal wage and salary information, with additional weights for concentrations of special education and low-income students, who are more expensive to educate. Along with below-average spending, California is a relatively high-cost state, with nearly a quarter of students living in poverty, contributing to its low ranking.

In 2011-12, local districts and state government in California spent $8,308 per student,  $3,428 – about 30 percent – below the U.S. adjusted average of $11,735. Only Texas, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona, at $8,101 per student, were lower among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Vermont spent the most – $18,882 – and Wyoming was second, at $17,758.

The year before, Quality Counts ranked California 50th, with only Utah behind it. California’s $8,341 per student in 2010-11 was $3,523 below the average spending nationwide.

California fares better in an annual report by the National Education Association, which uses unadjusted spending numbers from government sources. In 2011-12, California ranked 39th among the states and Washington, D.C., spending $9,053 per student (see page 73). That was $1,781 less than the national average and $948 less than the median national average.

According to Quality Counts, California ranks low by another spending measure: the capacity to spend on education, defined as local and state education revenues as a percentage of taxable resources. California spent 2.7 percent, tied with Delaware, Florida and Tennessee at 44th of 49 states with data.

School finance is one of three categories that Quality Counts measures. The other two are K-12 achievement, which includes scores on a national standardized test (NAEP) and graduation rates, and “chance for success,” which includes parents’ education, attendance in preschool and family income. California perennially fares poorly in the report, and it did again, with a D+. Massachusetts led with a B.

This year’s report also includes an extensive section on early childhood education and preschool issues.


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  1. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    "According to Quality Counts, California ranks low by another spending measure: the capacity to spend on education, defined as local and state education revenues as a percentage of taxable resources. California spent 2.7 percent, tied with Delaware, Florida and Tennessee at 44th of 49 states with data." This is, perhaps, the most damning of all statements about CA's shameful underfunding of its schools and other services for children as well as the poor. Even Dan Walters … Read More

    “According to Quality Counts, California ranks low by another spending measure: the capacity to spend on education, defined as local and state education revenues as a percentage of taxable resources. California spent 2.7 percent, tied with Delaware, Florida and Tennessee at 44th of 49 states with data.”

    This is, perhaps, the most damning of all statements about CA’s shameful underfunding of its schools and other services for children as well as the poor. Even Dan Walters (Sac Bee), no liberal by any means, had a column today about the poverty issue in the state. Poor kids don’t do well in school and that goes for school systems world wide. Of course the US leads the world in the high number of poor children and CA leads the US. A sad commentary on the wealthiest nation on Earth and the state that is the 9th biggest economy in the world.

    Some will suggest that here and there, in outlier cases, you find a particularly resilient child from a poor family that overcomes the burdens and goes on to be academically successful. The problem is, when you are looking at conditions of poverty, you need to look a general characteristics of who populations, not just the outliers. The general characteristics of those living in poverty show they face huge hurdles in being academically successful. And the schools alone, research shows, account for about a third of that academic success. Society cannot expect the one-third tail to wag the two-thirds dog on a consistent basis.

    An example I like to use is an NBA player from some years ago, named “Spud,” who was 5’6″ tall and could still dunk a basketball. It was a very entertaining spectacle. But it is an example of an outlier. How many people would think it reasonable to create a high school graduation requirement for PE that required all students, 5’6′ or above, to dunk a basketball before they could graduate?

    Then you can look at certain minority groups who do rather well in school depending on the sub-group. Some immigrant families qualify for “free and reduced” lunch, as their income levels in this country are on the lower end; however, looking at immigration studies show that their average incomes in their home countries was high. They were middle-class people with middle-class values when they arrived. These values, developed over time, include doing well academically as is true for other middle-class groups. They seem to be outliers who have somehow overcome the issues of poverty, but it is not necessarily true. It’s a lot more than just “pulling yourself up by your boot straps, particularly when over the course of generations you have not been able to afford boots, or have been denied boots because of discrimination.

  2. Dawn Urbanek 1 year ago1 year ago

    To Compare Reports: 2015: http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/2015/shr/16shr.ca.h34.pdf 2014: http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/2014/shr/16shr.ca.h33.pdf High School Graduation rates improved a great deal from 73.7 now 82 The K-12 Achievement index data is identical Re: Spending Adjusted per pupil spending went down from a State Average of $8,341 down to $8,308 more importantly: The number of students funded at or above the national average in 2014 19.5% dropped to 7.9% in 2015 Spending on education – State expenditures on K-12 schooling as a percent of state taxable resources … Read More

    To Compare Reports:

    2015: http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/2015/shr/16shr.ca.h34.pdf

    2014: http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/2014/shr/16shr.ca.h33.pdf

    High School Graduation rates improved a great deal from 73.7 now 82

    The K-12 Achievement index data is identical

    Re: Spending

    Adjusted per pupil spending went down from a State Average of $8,341 down to $8,308

    more importantly:

    The number of students funded at or above the national average in 2014 19.5% dropped to 7.9% in 2015

    Spending on education – State expenditures on K-12 schooling as a percent of state taxable resources was 3.1% in 2014 and has dropped to 2.7% California dropped from 37 to 40 in Equity and spending

    Why did they drop the section on Standards, Assessments and Accountability?

  3. Dawn Urbanek 1 year ago1 year ago

    They changed the way they score so that will affect rankings – “A Fresh Approach to Ranking States on Education” The 19th annual edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts includes a new take on the state report cards and provides a leaner format that focuses on educational outcomes from early childhood on up.

    http://www.edweek.org/ew/index.html?r=720409209

  4. Jennifer Bestor 1 year ago1 year ago

    Time to declare victory! We're no longer at the bottom -- just 46th, a few nickels ahead of Texas, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona ... and presumably still Utah. Meanwhile, "Gov. Brown is expected to announce K-12 and community college education spending that will be 39 percent higher than it was in 2011-12. Unless other states have increased that much, California’s ranking will rise in coming years." Maybe we'll make it back … Read More

    Time to declare victory! We’re no longer at the bottom — just 46th, a few nickels ahead of Texas, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona … and presumably still Utah.

    Meanwhile, “Gov. Brown is expected to announce K-12 and community college education spending that will be 39 percent higher than it was in 2011-12. Unless other states have increased that much, California’s ranking will rise in coming years.”

    Maybe we’ll make it back to 40th … though, of course, that will include the billions required of districts to back fund 15 years of unpaid pension promises, which won’t actually go to educating today’s children.

    And, of course, all the new Prop 30 money starts disappearing at the end of 2016 (just two years from now). And all of it will be gone forever two years after that.

    At which point, someone may notice that Prop 30 permanently removed $6 billion a year of sales tax from the Prop 98 calculation. Which means that $2.4 billion a year of current spending will become a catch-up promise, rather than actual funding, in Prop 98 Test 3 years — years in which revenue is flat or down … which it will be as Prop 30 dries up.

    Whereupon we may also notice that, as they have done for decades, economically competitive states have, in fact, kept funding their schools while California has chosen to fund prisons.

    D+ — a grade for dunces to celebrate.

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