Public Schools, Public Trust

California’s 40-year-old Proposition 13 dramatically changed how the state funds education.

Between 1970 and 1997, per pupil spending in California fell more than 15 percent relative to spending in other states, according to a report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The state stepped in to make up some lost local funding, and though a hefty budget surplus cushioned the blow initially, cuts were inevitable. “They immediately dropped summer schools and adult education,” says State Board of Education President Michael Kirst, who was also at the Board’s helm in 1978 when Prop. 13 passed. “Then they cut vocational education and counseling. They cut maintenance, assistant principals, librarians.”

The California Budget & Policy Center ranked California 41st in the nation in per pupil spending, when taking into account cost of living in each state. In 2015-2016, California schools spent $10,291 per student, about $1,900 less than the national average, according to the center.

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