John Lee Evans: Adequate funding for public schools


What does “adequate funding” for our public schools mean? Submitted by John Lee Evans Trustee, San Diego Unified:

John Lee EvansIt is generally accepted that California schools have been inadequately funded for the past several years. We rank 46th in per pupil spending among the states, but no one has clearly defined what adequate funding would be. What would it cost to prepare our students for the innovative jobs of the future to fuel the California economic engine?

San Diego Unified is leading a movement in California to clearly define what is needed to with a new investment model for public education. We are starting with what taxpayers and professional educators agree is needed to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills necessary to succeed in college or a technical career.

We must lower class size after the recent increases. We must have more counselors, nurses and librarians to ensure that our students succeed academically. We must provide additional supports to make sure all of our students are proficient in English. We must offer more career technical courses in high school. None of these are controversial.

The new Local Control Funding Formula is a more equitable method of distribution of funds, but it does not work if the funds are not adequate. Proposition 30 only stopped the annual major cuts. But we have no long-term solution. The funds are insufficient and temporary.

California Education Code actually requires that the state’s per pupil funding be at the level of the average of the top ten states. We are not even asking for that. Higher funding does not necessarily guarantee success without accountability. We will show exactly how we intend to spend the money.

Rather than simply saying we need more money every year, our investment model will show what we will do with the money. The San Diego School Board directed the staff to calculate the costs required to meet all of the goals of our Local Control Accountability Plan, which was developed with our own community. We are not talking about ideal funding, but funding for the essentials of a good education. The current funding gap is $350 million per year.

With these additional funds we will still be a little below the national average. But we can produce great results at a good price. We are asking other districts across the state to make their own calculation this month. We are calling for the state legislature to hold hearings soon to define what an adequate investment is for quality schools across California.

The public has always supported quality schools in our neighborhoods. But the current method of financing our schools has been broken for a long time. Our schools are too dependent on volatile sales and income taxes. We need good schools in times of economic boom and in times of economic downturn.

Once we come to a consensus on what is required, the legislature could then ask the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office we to develop a plan to finance this investment in education. Californians have a strong desire to support schools worthy of our stature in the world. Indeed, a strong public education system is the only way we can ensure that San Diego and all of California will continue to thrive in the competitive global economy.

Note: San Diego Unified

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