Efficiency and Adequacy in California School Finance: A Professional Judgment Approach
What is the cost of providing all California public school students with access to the California content standards and to achieve appropriate levels of proficiency standards established by the California Department of Education?
This report presents the results of the professional judgment component of a seven month project undertaken by American Institutes for Research (AIR) to answer the question posed above. The following discussion summarizes the major elements of this “costing out” study. “Costing out” is a term regularly applied to this type of analysis of adequacy in education. In the course of this endeavor, AIR obtained input from professional educators and convened a three-day meeting with highly-qualified California educators to estimate the cost of an “adequate” education.
The Bottom Line
Excluding debt service, public schools in California spent about $45.29 billion in 2004-05 to educate its students.1 The main results of this study suggest that an additional $24.14 to $32.01 billion would have been necessary in this same school year to ensure the opportunity for all students to meet “academically rigorous content standards and performance standards in all major subject areas.” Across this range of added expenditure, it was found that about 941 districts would have required additional funds to support an adequate educational program for their K-12 students, with this figure rising to 969 when considering the provision of adequate programs for those in preschool. Therefore, our results suggest that only about 15 to 28 of the 984 districts in the state were already spending at “adequate” levels. At first glance, these projected increases in spending of between 53 to 71 percent to achieve adequacy seem staggering. However, we show later California has lagged significantly behind the rest of the nation in spending on K-12 education. Moreover, when compared to the New York Adequacy Study (Chambers et al 2004), the projected spending estimated for California not only falls short of similar projections for New York State, but fails to even equal current spending levels in the Empire State.