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Report: California school districts spend less on students than before recession

Galt elementary district bucks trend, spends more even before federal funds

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 3:47 pm, Mon Oct 7, 2013.

California school districts spend an average of $873 per student less now than they did in 2008, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Washington, D.C., policy organization looked at nationwide figures and found that per-pupil spending in at least 34 states was less in the 2013-14 school year than it was before the recession. In 13 states, including California, it fell by more than 10 percent.

Galt Joint Union Elementary and Galt Joint Union High school districts, however, saw the opposite effect.

Even without including federal funding received this year, the elementary district is actually spending more per student now than it was in the 2007-08 school year. However, that is because the district has suffered declining enrollment, said Debbie Schmidt, director of business services for Galt elementary.

The district’s official expense per student for 2007-08 was $7,858, while the projected expense per student this year, without Race to the Top funds, will be approximately $7,968. With Race to the Top, it will be approximately $9,136, according to Schmidt.

Race to the Top will increase district spending this year by around $4.3 million total.

Galt Joint Union High School District, too, has seen a drop in enrollment. For 2007-08 the per student spending was $7,690.40, while the 2013-14 calculation is $8,726, or about $1,036 more. 

Since the district does not have as much enrollment as they did in 2008-09, there has been an investment in computers and smaller class sizes. A program improvement grant has also driven up the per-pupil spending, according to Sonia Lasyone, the district's chief business official.

In Acampo’s Oak View School District, per-pupil spending for 2007-08 was $7,531, about $1,169 more than last school year’s funding, according to Superintendent Beverly Boone.

But she points out that 2008 was the last year the state fully funded school districts. Since then, education spending has been slashed.The current per-pupil spending rate doesn’t come until the end of the school year, once the books are closed and the districts know what their expenditures are.

Neither Lodi Unified nor Galt Joint Union High School districts figures were available.

Between 2008 and 2012, with inflation figured in, California’s average per-pupil spending decreased by 13.8 percent, according to the report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. At the opposite end of the spectrum, per-pupil spending grew in 14 states, but only two states — North Dakota and Iowa — posted an increase of more than 10 percent. About 44 percent of total education spending in the United States comes from state funds; therefore, cuts at the state level force local school districts to scale back educational services, raise more local tax revenue, or both. In many cases, districts have laid off teachers and school personnel in response to budget cuts. The report points out that local school districts have cut 324,000 jobs since 2008.

Although state revenues are starting to improve — state tax revenues grew 8.9 percent in the 12-month period ending in March 2013 — they remain 2.8 percent below 2008 levels after adjusting for inflation, according to the report.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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