As education has become a bigger expenditure of the California budget the political forces through initiatives have created a bigger impact on the financing and accountability of public schools. According to Kemerer and Sanson (2013)“About 40 percent of the total state budget is devoted to public schooling” (pg. 1).
According to Kemerer and Sanson (2013)“Because the provisions of the Education Code have been enacted in piecemeal fashion over the years, they are difficult to find and often overlap” (pg. 1). One of the major pieces of legislation that have contributed to the impact of these initiatives is the case Serrano v. Priest I, where the court based on public opinion due to the lack of evidence of a correlation between educational expenditure and quality of education noted sided with the defendant John Serrano who sued state treasurer Ivy Priest and others who administered the California school system. The reason public opinion impacted school finance in this particular case was because the perception among the general public then and now, due to the Coleman Report commissioned in 1966, that educational spending levels are related to student achievement. Because of this perception the California Supreme Court rejected the states argument “that levels of educational expenditure do not affect the quality of education” (Kemerer and Sanson, 2013 pg. 103) Unfortunately Kemerer and Sanson note that “school spending does not demonstrate a clear or consistent relationship with student achievement” (pg. 97)
Another initiative that affected the financing of public schools was Proposition 13. In this proposition the overall goal was to limit taxes to 1 percent of assessed value. The proposition also required two-thirds of the legislature to increase state taxes and prohibited the imposition of a statewide property tax, which could be use by the state to fund public schools. Because of the passage of this proposition it “established a system taxed everyone at the same low rate and centralized authority over school funding at the state rather then the local level” (Kemerer and Sanson, 2013 pg. 109) Because of the passage of this proposition the state became more involved in the funding of schools and it started looking for other sources of revenue as the main funding for the schools, such as sales or income taxes. The impact this had on the funding of public schools was that schools now depended on California’s overall economic health for it funding. This dependence on California’s economy by the school systems on their funding was clearly present in the latest economic downturn for the state when teachers had to be laid off for lack of resources.
Most recently Proposition 30 was passed by California that allowed the state to increase state sales taxes from 7.25% to 7.5%. The proposition also increases income taxes on taxpayers earning over $250,000 for 7 years. According to the Proposition description it “Allocates temporary tax revenues 89% to K–12 schools and 11% to community colleges. (California Proposition 30, Sales and Income Tax Increase). This proposition was enacted because of the backlash to the 1% who after the recession that began in 2008, were still able to increase their wealth, according to reports and data, while the rest of the state suffered through layoffs and reduction of public services.
Overall the public perception that money or funding is related to student achievement has created a multitude of initiatives and propositions that have tried to reduced the achievement gap in California but as Kremer and Sanson pointed out it is not the amount of money we spend per pupil that we need to worry about but how that money is being spent. No matter how much money we throw at a problem it will not be sufficient if we do not have the correct tools to fix it.
Kemerer F, Sansom P. (2013) California School Law, Third Edition. Stanford California: Stanford University Press.
California Proposition 30, Sales and Income Tax Increase (2012). (n.d.). Retrieved May 29, 2015, from http://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_30,_Sales_and_Income_Tax_Increase_(2012)