In a meeting with retiring Associate Superintendent Malliga Tholandi, I learned that PUSD really is in a good financial position, despite the “location problem” we have. She says “location problem” because in the old state funding system called Revenue Limited Funding, beach cities were favored because of property tax revenue plus the standard $120/student annual funding from the state. In the new system of LCFF, the border cities get more aid funding because 50% of their students fit into the categories of low income, English learners, or foster care. But she stressed that “our core is strong” because we have very high attendance rates (maximizing our per-student funding) we have a very supportive community, and our budget allocations are all based on clear funding formulas.
She showed me some examples of how PUSD has to make real adjustments to compensate for the reduced revenue we get compared to other similar districts. For example, PUSD spends less than similar USDs when it comes to certified and classified staff. We also offer significantly reduced benefits packages tot hose employees. If you look at the table, you can see that while we are lower in all categories, our bigger cuts (or savings) are through significant reductions with “services and operating expenditures”. Despite our reduced revenue sources, we manage to allocate a near equitable amount to books and supplies (93% of comparable districts).
I left her office confident that there are systems in place to ensure that PUSD will remain a top tier public school district, even after she retires.
In last week’s article, I hinted that I would present where the ~$1000 (all values in this article are per student) difference between PUSD and other CA schools comes from. I was hoping to get some direct information from the district; I am still waiting on that. In the meantime take a look at the table below:
PUSD receives funds below average in nearly every category of funding. Compared to other Unified School Districts in CA. Specifically our Federal dollars are 41% of the statewide average and we get about $800 less from our LCFF sources. Digging deeper, that LCFF difference substantially comes from State Aid, despite the significant “over average” contributions from Property Tax. So, it seems that while we do put in more than our “fair share” through property taxes, we, as a Unified School District, are well off enough to not receive as much aid as other USDs. Even with the anticipated small changes to our local funding mentioned in previous articles, we still rely heavily on our PTA and Foundation to support the high level of enriched academic education we have come to expect. Frankly, that seems like a good problem to me.
According to 2013 nationwide data, the average primary and secondary schools spend about $9,263 per student per year. However, current estimates still show a ~$975 difference (lower) between CA spending on education and the national average. This might seem odd considering California has an economic tax base, 15% larger than average per household, and levies state and local taxes at a rate 7% higher than average. According to Ed100 There are some contributing factors to this imbalance:
- Youthfulness –there more students per taxpayer than most states
- Priorities – If California had matched that average spending “effort” it would have invested about $12,000 per student — nearly $3,000 more than its actual expenditures, recession,
- Complexity– the CAS system is so complicated with a history of propositions that it’s difficult for the average citizen to understand so they don’t know how to begin asking questions.
While this information helps us understand why our high quality primary education programs need supplemental community support, it may not be the full story. Looking at data from Education Data Partnership, PUSD has a per student revenue of $8,028, on average $1000 less per student than other similar unified districts in CA. In next week’s article, I hope to explore how this difference affects our school’s funding.
For parents involved with our school PTA and Foundation, thoughts of fundraising and programs are on the daily list. One common concern stems from the thought – “I pay my taxes, why do we still need to raise money?” I have been thinking a lot about that and started doing some research. I found Ed100 to be a great starting point resource to get a general understanding. Here is what I learned:
There are several things you ought to understand about the allocation system:
- There are four major kinds of revenue sources for education.
- Property taxes are not usually the main source of funding, despite what people think.
- Given the current system, your district can only do things on the margin to affect how much revenue it has.
- California is different from other states in the very small level of revenue raising power local communities have.
- The amount per pupil your district gets may be very different from the one next door, in part because of the revenue sources outside of state control.
The “other local funds” slice, only 6% of the funding pie, is generated and controlled by local school districts. This sliver includes interest income, leases on unused properties, parcel tax proceeds, donations, and a host of other miscellaneous sources. Thanks to some unusual provisions of California law, the state controls both the allocation of its general fund contribution to schools and local property taxes, hence, adoption of the LCFF.
This is the first in a series I am working on to shed some light into how our schools are funded. Stay tuned….