The ABC’s of Education Budgeting

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (February 2011 revise), California has more residents and public school students than any other state, e.g. 1.7 million more students than Texas. California also has the highest percentage of English learners in the nation (about 25 percent), most of which (85 percent) speak Spanish.

Educating children of illegal aliens is the single largest cost to taxpayers, approximately $52 billion annually, with the majority of cost falling on state and local governments. California also allows undocumented students to pay the lower, in-state tuition rate at public colleges.

Although California spending on corrections, police, fire, health and hospitals has consistently been well above the national average, public welfare and higher education spending was close to the U.S. average and highway expenditure below average every year.

California’s unadjusted per pupil expenditure had been below the national average. In 1989-99 spending was 89 percent of the average and ranking 33rd. rising to 25th by 2001-02. Since then, on a per capita basis, the state spending on K-12 education has been slightly above the national average.

About two-thirds of spending goes toward instruction (salaries and benefits for teachers and instructional aides), which is a little more than the national average (67 versus 65.8 percent). California spends a larger proportion (11.8 percent) on administration than the national average, which is 10.8 percent.

California teachers make relatively high salaries, ranking first with a average salary of $65,808 in 2007-2008. However, the cost of living here is higher than elsewhere. Teachers are also responsible for instructing considerably more students than their counterparts in most states. California falls below the national average in spending on operations, e.g. counselors, librarians, clerical staff, custodians, principals, facility maintenance, energy bills, food services, student transportation, etc.

The bad news is that, according to former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, the dropout rate is unacceptably high, especially for African American students (34.7 percent in 2007 – 2008) and Hispanic students (25.5 in 2007- 2008), compared to a white dropout rate for the same period of 12.2 percent and an Asian dropout rate of 8.4 percent.

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