PACE Event

Centralization of State Aid During an Era of Unpredictable Revenues

What Policymakers Can Learn from School District Responses

Recent news headlines have drawn attention to budget cuts that districts pursue in response to the state’s revenue shortfalls. But policymakers and state agencies need to consider more than episodic revenue declines or relative rankings of districts. Instead, policymakers need to consider how state fiscal conditions are changing a given district’s performance over time.

The state’s volatile tax base and centralization of school finance are associated with long-term unpredictability in state aid in California. Such unpredictability hamstrings district efforts to sustain large-scale policy reforms, retain teachers, and ultimately improve student achievement.

This seminar reviews evidence from a 2010-11 survey that provides a snapshot of district responses to unpredictable state aid. The speaker suggests ways that policymakers can account for the revenue instability a district has faced when evaluating district fiscal and academic performance.


  • Rekha Balu, Research Associate, K-12 Education, Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC)