Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Problem with California Education Spending--It's Not Education

On March 4, 2010, students and educators around California protested against draconian cuts in education within the California state government budget. However, there are larger issues involved, namely the actual root cause of California's budget mess.

The following chart shows California's expenditures on education relative to the state's total expenditures. The education expenditures include funding for Kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) plus funding for higher education. Note that the state's total expenditures have increased far faster than education funding.

The chart below shows the same data but this time adjusted for inflation. The expenditures are normalized to 1976 dollars (although not adjusted for California's increased population). In this chart, spending that tracks inflation appears as a flat line. Funding for higher education has essentially tracked inflation while K-12 and total education expenditures increased slightly faster than inflation.

However, notice that total state expenditures grew far faster than the inflation rate. This is the root cause of California's budget mess. While this chart is not normalized for both inflation AND population growth, spending did grow much faster than population. California's population increased by 24% from 1990 to 2009, or 29.76 million to 36.96 million. Meanwhile, inflation-adjusted spending rose 85% from 1990 to 2009 or three and half times faster than population growth!

California's budget problems do not necessarily reside within the education budget, although there is always room for improvement. Because of increased budget demands elsewhere, money is siphoned away from education. Fix the runaway state spending in other areas and the educational budget will fix itself. State spending must be reduced!

Similarly, California's overly-progressive Personal Income Tax mechanism relies too heavily on too few taxpayers and is therefore highly volatile, leading to massive swings in state revenues, depending on real estate returns and the stock market. California's tax structure must be revised to make revenues more consistent, dampening the year-to-year swings.

What is California's Legislature doing to fix these issues? Not much! Instead of focussing on balancing the budget or reforming California's out-of-control public-employee pension system, Legislators pass useless resolutions such as the Cuss-Free Week.

What can you do? Contact your California State and Assembly representatives and let them know that you want them to focus on sanely balancing the budget, cutting spending in areas besides education, and reforming the state pension system.

Find Your California Senate and Assembly Representative

Learn more on what other current and former state leaders have to say.

Former California State Assembly Leader, Willie Brown

California State Treasurer, Bill Lockyer

See also ...

"Why The Student Protestors Are Wrong"


California Program Expenditures

Inflation Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (CUUR0000AA0)

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