School Funding Gets More Controversial - LAUSD Budget Realities by zhouwenjuan


									School Funding Gets More Controversial
By Walt Gardner on February 21, 2011

Critics of public schools argue that spending more on education will not improve academic

achievement. They point out that educational expenditures have nearly tripled over the past four

decades after adjusting for inflation but that overall student achievement has for the most part

remained flat. Simply "throwing more dollars" at the problem will do little to improve outcomes.

Yet if money doesn't matter, why do suburban parents go to great lengths to supplement existing

funding? Parents in the Shawnee Mission School District, a wealthy Kansas City suburb, are fighting to

pay more taxes to support their local schools ("Tax Complaint: Too Low," Wall Street Journal, Feb.

14). So far, they've been frustrated because Kansas law puts a cap on how much money local school

districts can raise from property taxes. School districts in Texas face a similar problem. In 2006, the

Legislature placed limits on how much districts can raise local property taxes ("Aid Cuts Have Texas

Schools Scrambling," New York Times, Feb. 15).

In California, the funding issue has an unusual twist. A complicated formula determines how much

money each district receives from state and local taxes. In most districts, property taxes are

insufficient. As a result the state provides the remainder. The trouble is that when state revenues fall,

these "revenue limit" districts feel the pinch. In contrast, districts that are funded primarily by

property taxes from affluent communities are more insulated from the vagaries of state revenues.

California has 87 such "basic aid" districts out of more than 1,000 districts.

Suits have been filed in several states arguing that the way schools are funded violates their

respective Constitutions. The courts have ruled that when states guarantee free public schooling they

also have an obligation to make funding equal, regardless of the economic situation in the

communities in which students live (equity argument). But courts have also ratcheted up the

requirement that states provide an education to meet the demands of the 21st century (adequacy


These criteria create a high hurdle in light of two developments. Childhood poverty has increased,

until today the Census Bureau reports that one of five children falls into that category. At the same
time, the number of non-English speaking children has grown as immigration has risen. These factors

directly impact student achievement. But what makes them particularly formidable is the Great

Recession, which has placed enormous pressure on how money is spent. It's a perfect storm that will

inflict severe damage on efforts to provide all students with a quality education.

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