Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

On Schools, California Gets Its Money's Worth, But Is That Enough?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    While doing some research over the weekend, I came across a report produced for EdSource by the firm of John Mockler, the education expert who may be perhaps best known as offer of Prop 98.

    Mockler makes a compelling argument in the report that for all our complaints about schools, Californians are more than getting their money's worth for their funds devoted to education. The question is whether we might get more with no money.

    The statistics in the report are fascinating, mostly as reminders as how the reality of a fast-growing state clashes with California political rhetoric about the need to do more with less -- rhetoric that never seems to change. Among the stats that jumped out:

    • School enrollment have soared historically, from 4.1 million in California's public schools in 1980 to more than 6.3 million in 2005. Even starker: in 1980, 326,000 public schools kids in California needed to learn English. By 2005, that number had grown to 1.5 million.
    • California education isn't as top-heavy as we think. Only one in 26 schools employees is an administrator.
    • California is understaffed. The state ranks 50th in staff to student ratios, with 68 staff per 1,000 students (compared to a national average of 90 staff per 1,000 students). The typical American school has 30 percent more teachers and 92 percent more counselors than California.
    • As a percentage of personal income, Californians are spending less now on schools than they were in 1972.
    • And we're getting more for less. Reading scores are way up. The percentage of kids taking math and science is up. African American and Latino students are doing better. More kids are getting prepared for college.