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Huge spending gaps between school districts, report finds

February 19, 2013 |  5:26 pm

Vast inequities still exist in education funding across the nation, contributing to an academic achievement gap that separates the students at well-funded schools from those who attend campuses with fewer resources, according to a report released Tuesday.

The funding disparities are “as wide as ever despite decades of effort,” said Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, a Stanford law professor who co-chaired the Equity and Excellence Commission, a federal panel that examined funding and other issues over two years of research and testimony.

Analysts have frequently put California near the bottom of states in education dollars when the cost of living is factored in, but the report found that there also are huge spending differences within the state.

School systems that spend less than $7,000 per student include South San Francisco Unified and Gilroy Unified, south of the Bay area, said Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who compiled data from the 2009-10 school year.

At the other end of the spectrum, Sausalito Marin City School District spends $29,000 per student. Other relatively big spenders include Mendocino Unified ($21,000 per student) and Pacific Grove Unified near Monterey ($17,000 per student).

L.A. Unified spends about $11,063 per student, about $300 less than Beverly Hills, but Beverly Hills also benefits from substantial city support and parent fundraising — and serves a much lower percentage of students who are learning English or who belong to low-income families.

Besides calling for funding equity, the commission report supported President Obama’s call for more early childhood education. It also called for improving the effectiveness of teachers and principals, through such measures as higher salaries and improved training. 

The commission was established by Congress and organized under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Education.

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-- Howard Blume

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