Brown Education Summit Must Look at Where the School Money Goes

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Governor-elect Jerry Brown holds his second budget summit tomorrow at UCLA focusing on the budget challenges for education, the largest portion of the state budget. One place the summit must look at is why more of the current dollars spent on K-12 education are not getting into the classroom.

Last summer, the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Public Policy prepared a study for the California Chamber of Commerce, which reveled that over a five-year period from 2003-4 to 2008-9, K-12 overall education expenditures increased. However, money going into the classroom declined.

The researchers at the Davenport Institute continue their research (sponsored by the Small Business Action Committee) and will issue a more complete report next month. Dr. Steven Frates, one of the study’s authors, said the updated report would be more comprehensive in detail and scope because it will provide precise expenditure data for every one of the state’s thousand-plus school districts. Frates indicated the comprehensive study would support the earlier findings of a growing education bureaucracy at the expense of classrooms.

In July, the Davenport Institute concluded that school spending per capita in the school districts studied increased 24.8% over the five-year period. The spending increase was greater that per capita growth in personal income and inflation.

During that period, the Davenport Institute report states that classroom expenditures dropped from 59% to 57.8%. Direct classroom expenditures were classified as salaries and benefits for teachers and aides, books, materials and supplies for instructional functions, and professional and consulting services related to instructional functions. Teacher salaries and benefits dropped as a portion of statewide spending for K-12 operating expenses from 50% to 48%.

The Brown education summit should declare as a goal discovering how well and efficiently our education dollars are being spent.

If we are building a bureaucratic empire and starving the classrooms correcting that situation is one education reform all Californians would get behind.

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