The Truth About Education Spending in California

Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub explains the real numbers on education spending in California in response to the newest advertisement by the California Teachers Association. Love the teachers, hate the union It’s a new year, and that, it seems, means it’s time for another misleading radio commercial from the California Teachers Assn. The latest one, featuring union President Barbara Kerr and three anonymous teachers, alleges falsely that the governor is proposing to cut school funding in the coming year, and that education spending has been cut by $9.8 billion over some unspecified period. The text: Barbara Kerr: I’m Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association and a classroom teacher. It’s ironic. Just days after a respected report chastised California for severely underfunding our public schools, the Governor proposes a budget that will cut school funding by billions more. And this is on top of the $9.8 billion in cuts that classrooms have already suffered. Here’s what teachers say: Teacher # 1: The class sizes are so large it’s hard to focus attention on every student. Teacher #2: When kids are sharing text books and other classroom materials, it’s harder for them to learn. Teacher #3 Because of state budget cuts, schools have had to lay off librarians and even counselors and they are so important to what we do in the classroom. Barbara Kerr: We must let the Governor and the Legislature know that they’ve got to stop balancing the budget on the backs of our children. It’s time for lawmakers to keep their word and provide our schools the resources our kids need to succeed. Announcer: This message was brought to you by the California Teachers Association. In fact, according to the Department of Finance and the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s office, the governor is proposing to increase state and local education spending by $2.9 billion in the coming year. Even if you deduct for some added pension expenses Schwarzenegger wants to shift to the schools, it’s still effectively an increase of $2.5 billion — not a cut. What the teachers call billions in cuts is the governor’s decision to give the schools less than they expected to get in 2005-06. The other figure used in the ad — cuts of $9.8 billion — must represent a sum of expected funding not delivered, because the number bears absolutely no resemblance to any fact about actual education spending. Here are the numbers for state general fund and local property tax revenue for education since 1998-99, compiled from annual reports by the Legislative Analyst: 1998-99: $35.6 billion 1999-00: $39.5 billion 2000-01: $42.9 billion 2001-02: $43.2 billion 2002-03: $43.9 billion 2003-04: $46.2 billion 2004-05: $47.1 billion (estimated) 2005-06: $50 billion (proposed) Update: A reader asks, what’s been the change on a per student basis? Good question. Answer: 1998-99: $5,751 per student 2004-05: $7,012 2005-06: $7,374 (proposed)