Campaign pushes for ‘full and fair’ funding

California is the fifth largest economy in the world. It produces the highest gross domestic product of any state. It is the heart of innovation, opportunity and the digital economy. Yet when it comes to education, California lags woefully behind.

When adjusted for cost of living, California ranks 41st in per-pupil spending and 45th in student-teacher ratios, according to data from the California Budget & Policy Center and National Education Association.

ACSA and the California School Boards Association have partnered to launch a Full and Fair Funding campaign, which seeks to raise awareness that California sits near the bottom nationally in nearly every measure of school funding and school staffing.

“This level of investment is simply not good enough for the students or our state,” said Wes Smith, executive director of ACSA.

In partnership with ACSA, CSBA has drafted a resolution calling on the state Legislature to fund California schools at the national average by the year 2020, and to the average of the top 10 funded states by 2025. The two organizations will be pursuing a ballot measure in 2020 that they say will provide the resources needed for high-quality, rigorous education for all students.

Inadequate school funding is compounded in California, which is home to a high-needs student population, including more low-income students than the national average, the most English Learners of any state in the country, and persistent opportunity and achievement gaps. Proponents of Full and Fair Funding say adequate funding would provide the resources needed for high-quality education for all of the state’s 6.2 million students.

According to CSBA, California’s inadequate school funding hurts students, undermines communities and threatens the state’s prosperity by not preparing students for an increasingly competitive, technology-driven global economy.

While school spending has recently been restored to pre-recession levels, the state’s Prop. 98 funding guarantee has not kept pace with growing costs for districts like pension obligations and health care.

Full and Fair Funding campaign officials contend that overall, California is a wealthy state with high income areas and a large and robust economy.

“California leaders have been intentional in positioning our state to lead the nation on numerous fronts, and it is time we properly invest in our schools so our students are also in a position to lead,” said Edgar Zazueta, ACSA senior director, Policy and Governmental Relations.

Current per-pupil funding levels would need to increase by $1,961 per student in order to reach the national funding average. That means a school with 500 students would receive nearly $1 million in additional revenue.

Proponents say this funding can be used in a number of ways, including:

• Improve college and career counseling by providing a college and career counselor for every 250 students (recommended by the American School Counselor Association). This will ensure that all students are on track to graduate, meet A-G requirements, and have a robust plan for what to do after high school graduation. Cost: $159,948 for two counselors.

• Engage parents by having teachers conduct home visits and having a parent coordinator organize educational classes for parents to learn about how they can best support their children’s education. Cost: $87,474 to provide a stipend for teachers to conduct at least a one-hour home visit per student (assuming a cost of $15 per hour) and a parent coordinator.

• Ensure Advanced Placement success by placing all students in an Advanced Placement course, paying for test fees, and incorporating student supports, including tutoring, to master and practice the content. Supports can also incorporate AP preparation during summer school. Cost: $89,500 to provide each student with one AP test fee ($94) and an average of one hour of tutoring from a certificated teacher ($85).

• Provide a well-rounded education by supporting time for arts, physical activity, civic engagement and other topics that provide students with a well-rounded education. Funding will support part-time teachers in these diverse subject areas. Cost: $159,948 for four half-time teachers in the areas of art, music, physical education, and civics.

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