Time and time again, education has been acknowledged as a significant part of our lives because of its role in achieving a better society. As famously said by Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” As common as this belief is, how is it possible that California’s public school system has become majorly neglected by its state?
Cali schools history with funding
Historically, California’s public schools have heavily relied on the state budget for their funding. In a research conducted by Carrie Hahnel, senior policy and research fellow at Policy Analysis for California Education, Hahnel found that California has been spending less than the national average on their K-12 public education for decades. In the graph presented below, Hahnel demonstrates how California, although being the most populated state on the graph, has hardly seen any increase in funding for the education system.
When focusing on Hanhel’s findings regarding where California has historically focused its spendings, the K-12 Education continues to fall behind other expeditions; year after year, they take second to last place in the state’s priorities.
With these conclusions, it is not surprising that many Californian schools have been in a constant battle with funding. As a result, many schools are forced to make difficult decisions to save money, such as putting off services that are needed to maintain their schools. Between the fiscal years of 2015-2016 and 2018-2019, 108 schools had to be closed down at least once due to maintenance issues such as gas leaks, lead contamination, broken water pipes, infestations, and mold. In more dire situations, some schools, such as Bowman and Strobridge Elementary of the Hayward Unified School District (HUSD), were shut down permanently last year due to budget issues. Superintendent Matt Wayne of HUSD says this about the issue: “Even if we just did minimal repairs, it’s a significant amount of money for each of our aging facilities, and that doesn’t even get to the classroom upgrades that we want for our students.”
This begs the question: Why are our schools not receiving the money they need? How state funding is regulated depends on the school’s enrollment and daily attendance numbers. For schools such as Bowman and Strobridge Elementary, their low enrollment number led to concerns about their budget, and ultimately, their shutdown. Unfortunately, these aren’t the first or last schools facing this difficult decision as enrollment is expected to continue declining for at least the rest of the decade, According to the California Department of Education.
The Game-Changing Bill
In December of last year, Senate Bill 28 (SB 28) was introduced as a response to bring more financial support to California’s public schools. If the bill passes, a $15.5 billion general obligation bond will be created to provide capital support for public education, from preschool to college. The University of California Board of Regents announced their endorsement of SB 28 as it would, according to UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D., allow them to “modernize classrooms and labs, make urgent seismic upgrades, and serve even more California students.” It’s disheartening that even our well-known and respected universities are also being financially forgotten by the state as “thirty percent of all UC space is more than 50 years old”. For this reason, the passing of this bill can significantly lead to improvements that many of our schools desperately need.
For this bill to pass it must:
Receive two-thirds support of the state Legislature.
Be signed by Governor Newsom.
Receive the majority of the voters in the 2024 state ballots.
At this time, the bill has already passed the Senate. Therefore, it must then pass the Assembly before reaching Governor Newsom.
Ultimately, it is our students who suffer the most from this. The schools that closed down due to maintenance issues were from high-need districts in which over 55% of students are low-income, English learners, experiencing homelessness, or foster youth. In the Oakland Unified School district, a city with a large minority and immigrant population, various schools have or were at risk of being shut down to save money. Our students should never have their education threatened, which is why SB 28 is such a crucial bill. Not only would this bill restore our schools, but it can save them as well.