You gotta laugh when those folks at the California School Boards Association start talking.

I mean, they are class clowns but they are so funny.

Take the demands that the school boards issued to the state legislature recently.

The public release said:

“The California School Boards Association is calling on the Legislature to raise school funding to the national average by 2020 and to the average of the top 10 states by 2025.”


The comedy here works on so many levels.

That starts with the institution to which the school boards are directing their request. The California state legislature! As if the legislature decided on school funding.

Everyone knows that school funding was long ago decided by voters by initiative and constitutional amendment–Prop 98 and its successors. Formulas decide school funding. Yes, the legislature could try to do something different with school funding. But no lawmaker in their right mind would seek to decide that themselves.

That’s because the California Teachers Association effectively decides on any departures on school funding. And when they make those kinds of decisions, they don’t worry too much about the legislature. No, instead, they focus on the governor, who is the only official in the state with significant budget power.

So why don’t the CTA and the governor raise the level of funding to the national average, or to near the top. For a couple reasons that are so impolite to say out loud that they can only be touched on through satire.

First, for all the talk about the kids and the next generation, children aren’t anywhere close to the top priority in the state – for politicians, for the teachers’ union, for school boards, or even for voters. The percentage of the California population that is children is in decline. Adult concerns are what matter.

The second is that changing all of this would require eliminating Prop 98 and remaking the state finance system and state constitution, to free up the legislature and other policymakers to make funding decisions based on educational need, instead of spending formulas. Such reform would make a ton of sense – but California governance makes no sense. Reform is considered too politically hard and difficult by those who would support it. And the dirty secret is that many of the existing players like the control that the current flawed set-up gives them, no matter the limitation. The union and the governor aren’t going to risk giving up their power in the hopes that a democratic process might produce more school funding.

The people at the school boards association know all this. They know that they have no juice to make a request like this, and that the legislature couldn’t honor it. They know they don’t have the money or political power to launch reform that would get school funding to the levels they suggest.

But at least they haven’t lost their sense of humor.