The cover says "School Funding Went From First To Worst, What Went Wrong?" The story inside, however, has a slightly different title: "California's School Funding Went From First To Among The Worst, What Went Wrong?"
What went wrong? I'll tell you what went wrong! The California Teachers Association is being dishonest and is pushing this dishonesty on the cover of its magazine.
Where does California stand with regard to education spending? Riding to the rescue to answer this question is none other than the National Education Association in their March 2005 issue. Page 19 directs readers to a RAND Corporation report (here) which states " (t)he state ranked 27th in per pupil spending in 2001-2002." Not quite last, is it?
But wait, there's more. And I'm not talking about Ginsu knives here. Go to the National Center for Education Statistics to see where California fell during the 2001-2002 school year. Granted, that's 3 years ago, but I doubt that we've dropped to the bottom since then. Again, not the bottom. Not great, but certainly not the bottom. Later in the story, California Educator says that "Within a few years of passage [of Propositon 13], California went from being first in school funding to worst." I'd love to see the numbers backing up that statement.
The facts bear themselves out. You can't trust CTA to tell you the truth.
Now I'm not saying that all is peaches and cream here in California. Here are some of the bullets from the RAND study:
- California student achievement on national standardized tests is near the bottom of the 50 states, ranking above only Louisiana and Mississippi. California's low scores cannot be accounted for by a high percentage of minority students, who generally have lower scores because many come from low-income families and sometimes must learn English as a second language. Controlling for students' background, California's scores are the lowest of any state.
- California students have made gains on national achievement tests in both math and reading. In particular, the improvement seen among 4th graders in California in the past seven years has been greater than their peers in other states.
- California has the second highest ratio of students per teacher in the nation, even after a major effort began in 1996 to reduce ratios for K-3 and 9th grade. California K-12 schools have an average of 20.9 students per teacher, compared with a national average of 16.1.
- California school districts' teacher standards are generally lower than in other states. Just 46 percent of school districts in California require teachers to have full standard certification in the subjects they teach, compared with 82 percent nationally.
- The real average annual teacher salary in California during the 2000-2001 school year was about the same as it was in 1969-70, when adjusted for inflation. The adjusted annual average salary of about $39,000 (in today's dollars) places California last among the five largest states and 32nd nationwide.
- While California spent less per pupil on school facilities than other states during the 1990s, progress has been made in recent years with passage of both state and local bond measures. However, schools in central cities and in rural areas still have a high number of inadequate facilities.