California School Finance
California has a complex and ever-changing system of financing public schools.
Unlike most states, the majority of school funding in California comes through the state budget process as opposed to locally controlled property taxes. California's Proposition 98 establishes a minimum funding level for public schools calculated through one of three formulas. California allocates general purpose funding and also categorical funding. Categorical(s) are conditional money ; a school district receives the money if it carries out the program. The fiscal year of both the State of California and local school districts runs July 1st to June 30th.
Federal funding for education is chiefly for particular purposes, such as for Special Education programs through IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and for students with low socio-economic status (Title I).
A portion of local property tax revenue goes toward local public schools. The State of California takes the amount of local property tax revenue into account when it allocates state funding, in order to "backfill" local schools to a particular per-student amount, called the revenue limit.
School districts are responsible for using the funding from many different sources according to the separate rules of each funding source. Revenues are considered restricted, if they must be used for a specific purpose, or unrestricted, if the local education agency (LEA) may use it for any purpose.
School district budgets are public documents and discussion and actions on the budget are conducted at open public meetings.
Useful Links on School Finance
EdSourceEdSource was founded in 1977 by a coalition of California State PTA, League of Women Voters, and American Association of University Women. Its purpose is to explain complex education issues.
EdSource: School Finance Basics
Searchable statistics on school district data such as revenues, student-teacher ratios, and assessment data. Compare districts from the same geographic area or with similar populations.
Legislative Analyst's Office
Public, nonpartisan California government agency that analyzes legislation and ballot measures. Does analysis of all state budget proposals and makes budget recommendations.