Comparing K-12 expenditures to the total income of its residents measures the funding “effort” a state makes to educate its students. This chart shows the consequences of Proposition 13 on education funding. The initiative limited increases in property taxes, and the losses weren't totally offset by increases in other taxes. California, already below the national average, went from 39th in effort with 4.2 percent of state personal income devoted to education in 1970 to 43rd in 1978 with 3.83 percent and 47th in effort in 1984 with 3.29 percent.

After the Great Recession, the percentage of personal income California spent on K-12 schools fell to a historic low – 3.17 percent in 2012-13, then rebounded slightly to 3.27 percent in 2013-14. In both years, California was tied with Washington State at 48th in the nation.

In California, the sales tax and a progressive personal income tax, which is highly dependent on the volatile income of the top 1 percent of earners, produce most of the revenue for the state budget. Proposition 98, passed in 1988, determines the minimum level of funding for education, and the Legislature has rarely exceeded that minimum. School districts have few options, other than a parcel tax, requiring a two-thirds vote, to raise additional money for schools.

Chart by John C. Osborn. Updated by Daniel J. Willis, Justin Allen and Yuxuan Xie

Note: Each year in the charts and graphs refers to both the calendar year and the fiscal year. Thus, 2013 incorporated data from the fiscal year 2013-14 (July 1 through June 30) as well as the calendar year 2013.