School Funding Basics – The mess we are in

There are a lot of questions about how school funding works in California and why our schools are constantly asking for money.

1. Our school districts and local governments are separate.

They compete.

Schools have 3 funding sources:

  • The state – which treats San Mateo/ Foster City terribly. Funding has just this year returned to 2007 levels. (how would your life be living here today at your 2007 salary?)
  • Parcel taxes – to fund salaries and such
  • Bonds – to fund buildings.

Cities have all sorts of other options – and they use them (taxes and fees and their own bonds).

San Mateo and Foster City barely get along with the school district.

Foster City’s city council hasn’t even endorsed Measure V even though several thousand kids in their city are going to be hurt if it fails.

School districts and cities are totally independent of each other, they are just co-located.

Remember the film “War of the Roses“?

It’s like a divorced couple sharing a house.

No money is (willingly) shared.

Punishing school districts for the actions of cities is going to do NOTHING to affect the behavior of the cities.

It will only hurt the kids.

2. Why am I (still) paying for 20 year-old bonds?

The real question you might consider asking is why there aren’t more and more recent bonds. Buildings decay and get out of date.

Bonds run their course over 20 years or so, so basically, we are paying off work from the late 1990s.

(I’m sure you know this, but a bond is essentially a mortgage guaranteed by a community, you get money up front and pay it off with interest over 20 to 40 years… that is why they look like they do)

If you go to our schools, they are literally falling apart.

The lack of ongoing capital investment (in terms of bonds) is the reason.

I think the estimate to properly capitalize our schools to bring them up to date would be something like $100 million in bonds…maybe more… and it is going to get worse faster as the buildings get older… just like maintaining (or not maintaining) your house…

We actually need a re-capitalization plan to in a sensible way bring our school infrastructure up-to-date.

We are going to have to pay for it.

This is another hard discussion for another day.

3. Why can’t the schools be more efficient?

California schools are funded at 45th-ish in the nation.

San Mateo Foster City school district is funded below the state average.

We live in one of the most expensive cities and counties in the country.

Efficiency can’t overcome a 30% budget shortfall.

Even worse, poor funding leads to poor quality staff and leadership which leads to less efficiency, not more.

4. We can just (repeal Prop 13)…. or whatever

There are a lot of things we can do. Should do. Or should have done a long time ago.

Those options aren’t available here.

They aren’t on the ballot now.

We have a real problem… today.

We have something that will help… today.

It is far from perfect, but it is much better than the alternative.

Nothing isn’t nothing.

It is a $7 million per year cut to our local schools.

5. I believe in Public Education, BUT….

If you don’t believe in paying for public education, you don’t really believe in it.

Your messaging and signaling is doing one thing and one thing only:

Measure V is a vote to give our schools a 3% raise after 8 years, and a 6% budget cut if it fails.

If that is what you want to do for or to our schools, own it.

There are real problems in our school district.

Punishing our kids and junior staff and teachers won’t fix it.

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