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San Mateo County, CA June 8, 2010 Election
Smart Voter

Achieving School Funding Reform

By Anne Campbell

Candidate for Superintendent of School District; County of San Mateo

This information is provided by the candidate
California's system of school funding is broken and needs to be fixed. Strong public schools are key to our form of government and to an economy that can compete in today's global markets. California woefully underfunds its schools. I support efforts now underway to reform school funding.
When I began my career as a teacher in 1974 in San Mateo-Foster City, California's public schools were among the very best in the nation. Our public schools consistently placed among the top five states in student performance as well as in school funding. That changed, however, as a result of the Serrano-Priest court decision and the passage of Proposition 13.

The Serrano-Priest decision held that California's use of property taxes to fund local schools was unconstitutional because schools in wealthier areas were able to spend more on education than areas that did not have similar resources. To end this discriminatory system of financing public schools, school funding was transferred from the local to the state level. Although the hope was that Serrano-Priest would bring districts that were not spending as much per student up to the level of other districts, the results have been much different.

The disparities between well-funded and not-so-well-funded school districts have continued to increase. San Mateo County provides a perfect example. In 2007-08 some school districts in our county spent close to $16,000 per student while other districts were only able to provide a little over $7,000 per student. Linda Darling-Hammond and others in the field of educational policy have observed that such disparities in funding create an opportunity gap that contributes to and perpetuates the achievement gap.

The passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 compounded California's school funding difficulties. While Proposition 13 has had a positive effect for property owners, it has had a devastating impact upon California's public education system and local governments. Any state tax increase now requires 2/3 approval by the legislature, and any local special tax requires 2/3 approval by the voters. This has made it difficult for local school districts and governments to fund local initiatives and has made them much more dependent on state funding. Given California's current budget woes, the State is an increasingly unreliable funding source, leaving schools and local governments in difficult straits.

Strong public schools are key to our form of government and to an economy that can compete in today's global markets. California schools again need to be among the best in the nation, but this will require major funding reform. While such reform is an incredibly complex undertaking, I support the following efforts to achieve change:

1. 55% Parcel Tax Approval Threshold. Currently if a local community wants to increase school funding, a parcel tax must receive 2/3 voter approval. I support two efforts currently underway to change the parcel tax approval threshold to 55%, just as allowed for bonds. Senator Joe Simitian is sponsoring State Constitutional Amendment 6 that would provide for 55% approval. Californians for Improved School Funding is also currently trying to qualify a similar measure for the November ballot known as the Local Control of Local Classrooms Funding Act. To find out more about this initiative, visit

2. Getting Down to Facts. Released in 2007, Getting Down to Facts contains a variety of studies on how California schools are funded today and how they might be funded in the future. These studies have languished since their release due to the severity of California's ongoing fiscal crisis. As the economy begins to rebound, we need to bring Getting Down to Facts back on center stage to help answer two vital questions:

How can we use our current resources more effectively to help our students thrive in the 21st Century?

To what extent do we need additional resources so California's students can meet the goals we have set for them?

For more information on Getting Down to Facts, visit

3. Education Legal Alliance. This group is poised to file a lawsuit on behalf of California's children, claiming the current school funding model is inequitable, inadequate, and broken. California has one of the largest economies in the world, yet spends among the lowest per student of any state. The California PTA, California School Boards Association, and Association of California School Administrators are all joining forces in this lawsuit to fight on behalf of equitable and adequate funding for all of California's students. I support their efforts.

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