Los Angeles, CA — When money is scarce, most people (and governments) spend their time and energy trying to figure out how to increase revenue, but according to UCLA researcher John Rogers, now is the optimal time to begin looking at how to fundamentally change the education finance system in California.

That is one of the key conclusions Rogers and his colleagues draw in their just released report The California Educational Opportunity Report: Listening to Public School Parents.

“It is useful in this moment of deep educational cuts to begin to develop an education finance systems that actually functions,” said Rogers about what he thinks should happen over the next couple of years. “And to do that, we have to begin with the recognition that things are going to be bad over the next 18 months.”

The California Education Opportunity Report, which is jointly sponsored by the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access (IDEA), and UC/ACCORD (All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity), points out that the state’s cost-adjusted per pupil expenditure is $2,000 lower than the national average, and $5,000 less than high-expenditure states like New York, New jersey and Maine.

And while this may seem an abstract figure, Rogers notes some very real consequences of these spending deficits–there is a gross inequity in the money that goes to the state’s schools.

“Some schools have far more first- and second-year teachers (and their smaller salaries) than other schools, and (in reality) almost the entire school budget is the cost of teachers. Schools with inexperienced teachers receive less funding than other schools,” Rogers said. “There is the general assumption that schools serving low-income students get more money through Title I, and there is some truth to that, but what doesn’t get accounted for in that equation is that many of those same schools receive less of the core money.”

That core money is based on teacher salaries.

There are several other factors to take into account when it comes to school funding, added Rogers.

“. . . Some districts are in revenue limit (cities) where they generate enough revenue from local property taxes that they don’t need much from the state. Also local property taxes can generate more money in some districts than others.”

For example, the UCLA researcher notes that Beverly Hills Unified gets about $3000 per student from the city per student, while the Santa Monica-Malibu school district receives about $2000 per child from the City of Santa Monica.

However, despite these myriad nuances, if the achievement gaps, and school inequities that are highlighted in the Opportunity Report are to be eliminated, Rogers said a discussion must begin about fundamentally changing the way the state’s schools are funded. And that discussion must definitely include the concept of creating additional revenue and revisiting Proposition 13.

Rogers said there has been some movement in the direction of a new funding system by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley ( D-41), who last session and in the current session introduced proposed legislation (AB8) that would create a working group to make findings and recommendations to the governor and legislature regarding California’s school finance system. It would look at alternative structures for funding public schools.