Many California school districts are in financial trouble. Teacher pensions consume an increasing share of K-12 spending, and inflexible collective bargaining agreements and declining enrollments stretch district budgets.
In this strained financial environment, some of the complexity of California’s school finance system is lost, leading to simplified analyses and incomplete solutions. Addressing the financial shortfall requires a comprehensive understanding of the many different ways funding works in the state.
To that end, we released new issue briefs yesterday that provide needed context and clarity on important issues in the state: special education financing and school enrollment trends and facilities. These issues have become part of the financial policy debate, but there are misunderstandings that unnecessarily fan the flames of tension between traditional and charter schools. For example, misleading analyses of enrollment trends and their impact on district finances make it more difficult to accurately assess facilities needs for districts and charter schools. And, since charter schools often enroll fewer students with disabilities, many can mistakenly believe that they are not contributing their share to special education.
But this isn’t quite right. Our hope is that a sober examination of these systems will point to reforms that can help schools of all types better serve students.