More money isn’t the key to improving California’s public schools

Public school advocacy groups often claim California’s public schools are underfunded. “California is the eighth largest economy in the world but continues to rank well below the national average in per-student funding,” says the California Teachers Association website.

In recent years, however, some of these accusations have softened because they are increasingly wrong or difficult to defend. 

Compared to all 50 states, California has had the ninth-fastest growth in education funding over the last two decades. It now ranks 17th in the nation in per-student spending, well above the national average. California’s students also made notable academic progress during this period.

While it’s easy to argue that large spending increases are the primary driver of student achievement gains, the real explanation is more complicated.

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yellow school bus on road by Maximilian Simson is licensed under Unsplash

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