After the dust has settled on all the local and state tax increase measures and propositions, it is time to get honest about our California K-12 education funding challenges.
For the five-year period beginning fiscal year 2003-04 and ending FY 2007-08, total education spending throughout the state increased 22 percent. By comparison, the California Per Capita Personal Income Index — an accurate gauge of inflation for the state — grew by 14.9 percent. Meanwhile, the Gross Domestic Product grew by 14.7 percent and the accumulative increase in the U.S. Consumer Price Index was 13.8 percent.
So where did this hyper-inflationary K-12 education spending go? Well, it did not go to the students. During this period, spending on student materials and supplies increased by only 5 percent, while expenditures for non-capitalized equipment went down by 2 percent; student insurance went down 12 percent and spending on books and reference materials decreased by 48 percent.
The real cause of K-12 hyper-inflation has been increased employee costs. During this period, all expense categories related to employee costs increased greater than the PCPI. For example: Certificated employee (teachers) salary expense increased 23 percent, classified employee salary expense increased 28 percent, professional dues and memberships increased 49 percent, insurance expense increased 54 percent and employee benefits increased 29 percent.
During this five-year period that ended prior to the revenue impacts of the Great Recession, statewide spending per student increased by 25.8 percent.
The Great Recession provided a smoke screen for these facts. The public employee union-powered state Democratic Party succeeded in winning the tax propositions and measures. However, without implementing changes to grow efficiency in the business of K-12 education, they will keep coming back to demand more. It is clear we have an unsustainable education spending problem — one where most of the spending increases go to the union members and not to fund student improvements.