In California, over the past few decades, court decisions and ballot initiatives have constrained public school funding. While dollars have increased, our state has dropped from 14th to 41st in the nation in per student funding since 1978, despite having grown to be the fifth-largest economy in the world.

Further, district costs continue to rise faster than state funding, and due to continued heavy reliance on local property taxes, structural inequities in state funding formulas result in low-revenue districts in high-cost-of-living geographic areas, such as our own, being hit the hardest.

“Punishing” underfunded school districts that “aren’t doing well enough” and protesting “the system” are easy things to do, and serve deregulatory and anti-tax agendas well. However, it is truly akin to reprimanding a fixed-income senior for not having saved enough for retirement during their years in the military or working blue-collar jobs, rather than providing them with the structures and supports they need all along the way. It fails to recognize the proverbial forest for the trees and does not serve our communities well.

Currently, California spends more than $80,000 per prisoner, including nonviolent offenders. That’s nearly eight times the average $12,000 per student, according to state sources. Today’s students are poised to become tomorrow’s leaders, innovators and workers. It’s up to us as a community to decide whether we continue to invest in prisons or look for the forest through the trees and divert our resources to supporting positive outcomes for our students and healthy communities instead.

— Stacy Owens, Half Moon Bay

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