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California’s K-12 schools and their nearly 6 million students received a multi-billion-dollar additional infusion of cash in the budget that Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators enacted last week, raising per-pupil spending to a record-high level.

In all, the budget will provide schools with an average of about $24,000 a year for each student, doubling what it was just a few years ago, with a formula that provides extra allocations to school districts with high numbers of poor and English-learner students.

Those extra funds are being distributed via the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), a plan adopted a decade ago to close what is called the “achievement gap” between those children — roughly 60% of the state’s K-12 students — and the more privileged 40%.

Spending $24,000 per student appears to propel California into the upper ranks of the states, although making such comparisons is tricky. Different organizations use different numbers, some adjust numbers for the cost of living, and the data are always a few years out of date.

The main problem with such comparisons, however, is they assume that spending money equates to educational outcomes when, in fact, they don’t. If one takes any list of what states spend on schools and compares it to results of the federal government’s academic testing program, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), there is absolutely no correlation between spending and achievement.

Some states that spend heavily, such as New Jersey, also excel in NAEP’s measures of reading and mathematics competence, but others, such as neighboring New York, are mediocre at best. Likewise, states that are below average or even at the bottom, of spending lists are often in the academic upper tier, such as Iowa, Utah and Colorado. But some low-spending states also rank poorly in testing, such as Mississippi.

Washington, D.C. schools have the highest per-pupil spending in the nation but are dead last in academics.

California, until recently, was mediocre in spending and mediocre in NAEP tests. The state’s big increases in spending could bring better academic results, but only if the money is laser-focused on uplifting children who have been left behind, rather than subtly diverted into other purposes, as various independent studies have indicated, including a scathing 2019 report from the state auditor’s office.

After delving into the finances of three representative school districts, auditors castigated the state Department of Education for sloppy oversight of LCFF funds. They also criticized school districts for issuing indecipherable and inaccurate reports on how funds were being spent, and county offices of education for not fulfilling their designated roles as LCFF monitors.

“We are particularly concerned that the state does not explicitly require districts to spend their supplemental and concentration (LCFF) funds on the intended student groups or to track their spending of those funds,” the report declared. “Without a means of tracking how districts use funds, state and local policymakers and other local stakeholders lack adequate information to assess the impact of those funds on the outcomes of intended student groups.”

Moreover, a CalMatters investigation into how the state’s schools spent $33.5 billion in one-time state and federal funds to help their students cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that much of it was diverted into programs, equipment and other purposes that had little or nothing to do with countering the devastating impacts of at-home schooling.

So will the extra money that Newsom and the Legislature are pumping into the schools really make an academic difference? The record to date is not encouraging.

Dan Walters is a CalMatters columnist.

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Connecticut Will Use Federal Funds to Get People Back to Work

by Brent Addleman


Connecticut is focusing on a workforce investment designed to place state residents from underserved communities into high-demand jobs.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday the state was awarded $23.9 million through the American Rescue Plan’s Good Jobs Challenge through the U.S. Department of Commerce. The funds will be invested into the Office of Workforce Strategy programs designed to place more than 2,000 residents into the workforce.

According to the release, the funding will be distributed to 10 regional sector partnerships to aid people from those underserved communities attain employment in high-demand jobs in manufacturing, health care, information technology, and bioscience.

Lamont and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, were each quoted in the release, praising assistance for training and access to the respective job industries.

The sector partnerships, according to the release, are comprised of officials in education and workforce and economic development that work in collaboration to advance industry competitiveness. The collaborative group will work to provide resources necessary to prepare high school students for the workforce, expand short-term training program, and include certificates from Google and AWS training from community colleges, and provide pathways to entry-level health care jobs.

– – –

Brent Addleman is an Associate Editor and a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He has served as editor of newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas, and has also worked at newspapers in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Kentucky.
Photo “Ned Lamont” by Office of Governor Ned Lamont. Background Photo “Connecticut State Capitol” by EGryk. CC BY-SA 4.0.


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