What is “adequate” education funding?

Yesterday the 1st District Court of Appeals for California heard an appeal on Robles-Wong v. California, a landmark case originally filed by the California School Boards Association in 2010 and then combined with Campaign for Quality Education v. California, another funding adequacy case filed the same year. The judges must rule within the next 90 days whether to overturn an earlier dismissal of the case.

News reports on yesterday’s arguments:

I also highly recommend downloading and reading the California School Boards Association’s recent, very comprehensive report on funding adequacy. It’s packed with facts and figures and makes a strong case that California is still not funding its schools adequately, even with the real and significant increases we’ve seen through the Local Control Funding Formula. The report estimates that the state should add between $22 and $42 billion (with a “b”!) annually to adequately prepare students for college.

Download the full report here (PDF)>

P.S. After I wrote this post, I came across this article from the Atlantic, “How Rich Parents Can Exacerbate School Inequality,” which makes a strong case for adequate funding for ALL schools to lessen the need for parent fundraising. Among the gems:

[Robert] Reich also pointed out that when wealthy people give money to their town foundations, their tax-deductable donations stay in their own communities. The contributions enhance the schools’ success, which in turn increases the donors’ property value. In other words, the rich receive tax credits for giving money to themselves. “All of us are subsidizing the magnification of inequality in public schools,” he told me. It’s preposterous.”


Parental fundraising activities may even detract from local political activity, too, according to Reich. These highly educated, affluent parents, he said, use their finite energy and wallets to do some something that exclusively benefits their children. As a result, the parents may be less likely to advocate for policy changes that would benefits kids in other school districts, taking away some of their “political voice,” Reich theorized. Instead of going to Trenton or Albany to fight for public schools, they are running the town’s science fair.

One more:

Reich contrasted the fundraising efforts across school districts in California. He found that parents in the wealthy suburb of Hillsborough, California, raised about $2,300 per student on top of the district’s standard per-pupil allocation. Through online auctions whose items included a vacation on an island off of Belize in a house with a dedicated butler and a trip to see to the final episode of The Bachelor, they financed class-size reductions, librarians, art, and music teachers, along with smart technology in every classroom. In contrast, a foundation in Oakland raised only $100 per child. And, Reich said, parent foundations are nonexistent in most of the country’s poor cities and rural areas.


2 responses to “What is “adequate” education funding?

  1. Rachel,
    Thanks for posting the School Boards report. I learned from it that a state constitutional amendment is required to increase property taxes across CA. Our schools remain yoked to the lamentable legacy of Prop 13.

    Until/unless public support emerges for such a shift it seems the most we can hope for is renewal of the recent Prop 30 Sales & Income Tax increases which expire in 2018. Plus local supplemental property tax initiatives such as those passed in San Francisco and LA for local public schools. My 2c.

  2. Hi Rachel,
    Thanks for posting this. The Atlantic article is interesting and doesn’t even address the phenomenon in the Bay Area where many upper class and middle class people send their children to private schools which further distances the most powerful forces in society from first-hand knowledge of the public school system and any motivation to educate themselves on public education policy and politics. The article does not touch on the fact that these two distinct education spheres, public and private, have radical differences in terms of student testing, expectations on teachers, curriculum, resources, classroom support, and teacher professional development. In San Francisco, the average K-5 tuition for private school is between $25,000 and $30,000 per year while public school students are funded at around $7500 per year. Private schools have 3 times the amount of resources that public schools do. If the wealthy are not taxed, they retain money to pay for private school, private transportation, and private medicine while simultaneously, the public sphere becomes poorer and poorer, reducing public services to the point of ineffectiveness. When you do not redistribute wealth through taxation, the working classes (because the middle class becomes statistically insignificant without progressive taxation) have no public sphere to support social mobility. The wealthy will always have access to good educations, the point of a democracy is to create an infrastructure so all people can have access. If we want to keep our democracy alive, we will have to commit to funding public education.