California’s Misguided Education Spending

Throwing billions at a failing education system is the California way

By Larry Sand

 

According to the Census Bureau, California spends $15,837 per K-12 pupil, ranking 19th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. In 2019, the state spent about $79 billion on education, yet these expenditures have done little in the way of improving its schools. And a new “deluge of state and federal funding” included in Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2021-2022 budget will add another $15 billion to the state’s education coffers.

Only half of all California students performed at grade level in reading on the state’s most recent standardized language arts test, and just 34 percent of California fourth-graders scored proficient in math on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), placing the state 44th nationwide. Minority students in big cities perform particularly poorly. In Los Angeles, for example, just 9 percent of blacks scored proficient in eighth-grade math, compared with 12 percent of Hispanics and 51 percent of whites on the recent NAEP. A recently released “States with the Best Public Schools since the Pandemic” tracker ranks California 44th nationally.

While Golden State students suffer academically, their teachers do quite well for themselves. The latest data show that the average K-12 educator hauls in $84,531 a year. But as Just Facts reveals, that amount does not include “unfunded pension liabilities and non-pension post-employment benefits like health insurance.” Adjusted to include costs, the average California teacher’s total compensation is almost $127,000 per annum. It’s worth noting that full-time public school teachers work an average of 1,490 hours per year, including time spent on lesson planning and grading, while private-sector employees work an average of 2,045 hours per year, or about 37 percent more. Nevertheless, local teachers’ unions eager for a share of the new funds will likely demand hefty raises for their members.

A portion of the new funding will be used to develop high school ethnic studies courses, which will become a graduation requirement during the 2029–2030 school year, prompting districts to implement radical curricula.

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