Equal isn’t equitable.
We need per student funding to reflect regional cost differences in our most expensive counties.
Children in the poorest schools in our wealthiest counties are seeing the biggest cuts in their schools; this makes it imperative we move to Parity And Cost Transparency (thus our title, imPACT) by giving these districts a supplement to account for the higher costs in these districts.
Make an imPACT and bring equity to these students and these schools in our most expensive counties.
California’s school finance system provides the SAME funding for a student in a less expensive county, where a two bedroom apartment may rent for $900, as it does for a student living in a more expensive county, where the same apartment can rent for three or four times as much (see graph below). This means that, for example, while the teacher shortage may be impacting all districts, it impacts these districts even more. As another example, a family of four – with two parents working as custodians, teachers, school nurses, administrators -- can just make ends meet for $67,000 in Sacramento or San Bernardino county. A similar family needs over $108,000 in the Bay Area to maintain the same modest lifestyle, according to the California Budget & Policy Center.
When the new funding formula was originally developed (it went into effect in the 2013-14 school year), cost of living was intended to be part of the calculation, in addition to student needs. Former State Board of Education Chair Michael Kirst’s 2008 blueprint for this “more rational, more equitable” school finance system in California clearly stated that district revenue should be linked to “student needs and regional costs.” When that funding formula, called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) (click the link for a definition of LCFF) was implemented in 2013, however, regional costs were omitted to achieve full implementation sooner. We have heard several other reasons for this omission; you can read those reasons here.
The misery experienced in the poorest districts in our wealthiest counties goes beyond that experienced by all districts across the state, so well described in West-Ed’s The Silent Recession. Our effort here is to bring equity to school funding by supplementing some districts for cost of living differences; no district in the state would receive less than they currently receive. The state recognizes cost of living for other investments (e.g. childcare); it is time to supplement that difference for K-12 education.
A regional supplement is surprisingly affordable. Although the total shortfall is $1.1 billion -- less than $700 million, or 1% of the total LCFF budget, would be needed from the General Fund. Why? Because over half a billion dollars of “excess” property tax revenue, allocated to education, but redirected, is available to pay for it annually in the four highest-cost counties.
Basically, a fund was created to allocate some property taxes to schools, but the money in that fund only gets to schools up to the level the state says schools should be funded -- which does NOT include a cost of living supplement. We know from county child care allocations, for example, that it is CRITICAL to adjust for cost of living -- otherwise counties could not attract providers. However, we have not made the same adjustment for K-12 funding. It's time. If you have additional questions about how a district could have "excess" education revenue more information is here (the amount), here (the history) and here (an explanation).
imPACT is our campaign to address this inequity, now. The extreme financial crisis facing most schools in the poorest districts in our wealthiest counties makes it imperative we move to Parity And Cost Transparency and supplement funding for cost of living differences in those counties. Please join us in asking the Governor and Legislature to incorporate a regional cost supplement into the school funding formula, LCFF, as originally intended.
Do you live in one of the ten highest-cost counties in California -- including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Orange, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Ventura? Find out how much additional financial stress your local districts are experiencing by clicking on Counties.
We have provided questions and answers for parents and other concerned community members and one for analysts. We add more every day. If your question is not listed, please add it in the comment box at the bottom of either of those links and we will post your question and a response. Thank you!
Do you wonder how there could be “excess” property tax revenue -- meant for, but not going to, schools -- available to the Legislature for schools in the most expensive counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin and Santa Clara? Click on $623 Million.
Are you asking yourself if this completely fixes California school finance? No. It rectifies an immediate problem, recaptures hundreds of millions of dollars for education starting in July, and serves to reassure voters -- especially in the areas where any new full, fair and adequate funding will predominantly be raised -- that their local needs are respected.
Make an imPACT -- contact your local legislatures if you are in an imPACTed county -- including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Orange, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Ventura -- click on the counties link here and your county page will have the information to contact your legislators.
We also need to reach out to Governor Newsom, his Education Advisors and the key Legislative committees. Join with other parents and members of the education community to have an imPACT now. Email us here to get involved, and with questions or for connections.
Join the fight for equitable -- not nominally equal -- funding of all children in California.