Rewarding Failure In The K-12 System

California spends a lot on education. Ever since the passage of Proposition 98 in 1988, which guarantees to education a minimum of 40% of the general fund, per-pupil spending on K-12 has risen faster than any other category of state appropriations. And yet, for all that new money, the state’s education monopoly continues its history of failure to deliver a quality product.

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Just last month, this column cited the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, showing that in 2017-2018, the most recent year for which statistics are available, per-pupil spending for the state’s K-12 public schools was $13,129 in inflation-adjusted 2019-20 dollars, the highest ever. Measured in the same constant dollars, per-pupil spending was $9,594 in 1999-2000.

California is quickly rising in the ranks in spending according to multiple metrics and we are now at least 17th highest in the United States. And many of these statistics are pre-pandemic, before the state plowed even more money into the system.

Where it excels in spending money, California lags in educational outcomes due to a clear hostility to meaningful education reforms. For decades, reformers have unsuccessfully advocated for more school choice, merit pay for teachers, advancement based on merit rather than seniority and the ability to fire bad teachers including some credibly accused of crimes against children.

The “reforms” coming out of the union-dominated Legislature will only make matters worse. The latest iteration of this is Senate Bill 830 by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, that would change the way schools are funded. Under current law, schools get financial support based on a formula that includes average daily attendance. This bill would eliminate daily attendance from the formula, and with it the financial incentive for school personnel to attempt to get students in the building.

To read the entire column, please click here.


  1. Education in California, and many areas across America, has become the tool of politicians. Where as it use to be that students were taught the basics, teachers were trained to teach the basics, parents were held responsible for caring for their children, including sleep, food, monitoring student behavior and success, etc, and the communities and parents had strong input into the child’s education THAT IS NOW ALL GONE!!. All of those areas are now controlled by the politicians, corporations, unions and a large group of socialist minded people that feel equity and equality supersedes responsibility by all. The result is students are being placed, not by ability or success in learning the subjects, but by the student’s background and perceived place on the social ladder. In every kindergarten there are students that have the family support and the opportunity to learn what is being taught. Some succeed, some don’t even try. From that point on the student falls farther behind year by year. Advancement is based on age in most situations. Where and how does the student catch up? Who is responsible for this happening? What is being done to make those responsible fulfill that responsibility? The fact is none of the involved want even to look at those issues. Currently the schools and teachers are focused on – why should the parents, politicians, unions and others that control the process try to remain hidden? Connecting the money to the student and allowing family input in choice of school would go a long ways in reconnecting to responsibility at all levels. A good place to start.

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