Dear Editor:

Jim Larimer is correct in that California underfunds K-12 education (Review, Nov. 17). The latest data shows average spending per pupil of roughly $12,700. That amount is equal to the U.S. state average, but barely half of the top state New York ($23,300). However, the focus on Proposition 13 as the cause of this shortfall misses the big picture.

California’s total tax burden is among the highest in the United States on both a tax rate and taxes per capita basis. These high tax revenues can be used for all sorts of government endeavors — public safety, roads, social programs — including public schools.

Proposition 13 does not make California an outlier in K-12 tax funding; many states including Illinois, Michigan, Washington and Nevada show property taxes as a smaller share of school funding than does California (about 27 percent in 2015-16). The biggest source of K-12 funds in California comes from income taxes, with the state providing about 58 percent. Nationally, the state average percentage of funding is 47 percent.

California collects more taxes as a percent of state GDP (19.4 percent) than average (16.4 percent) but spends roughly 2.9 percent on K-12 education versus 3.4 percent nationwide.

The fact that Sacramento does not allocate more tax revenues to schools is something that the people of California have to fix if that is what they want. Similarly, we can also fix the funding shortfall by a parcel tax on the local level. Bottom line is we tax more, but at this point we choose to spend less.

Les Deman

Half Moon Bay

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(2) comments

Jim Larimer

K-12 funding comes primarily from State Income taxes in California because the traditional way public schools and local governments are funded in almost every other state is local property taxes. An explanation for why our property taxes are insufficient to fund public schools and local government can be found here: https://www.hmbreview.com/opinion/proposition-13-is-why-our-schools-are-failing/article_0d88f9fc-4766-11ec-a7c1-2f1f9a358743.html .

California's taxes have been distorted relative to other states by Prop. 13. The large tax subsidy given to long term property owners as greatly reduced the total property tax collected making these revenues insufficient to pay for local government and schools. Recent first time owners pay a much higher property tax, so that older owners can be given these tax breaks, but it is not large enough to make up for the tax gift to older owners. Prop. 13 is a vast transfer of wealth from young owners to older ones, people who often do not need government welfare.

Tyler Durden

Larimer wrote:

"...Prop. 13 is a vast transfer of wealth from young owners to older ones..."

Uh, but those "older ones" then get to bequeath their wealth to younger offspring so both the older and younger groups benefit. It's not a zero sum game but rather a win-win. That is why voters really like Prop. 13 and why it will never be overturned.

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