Lance T. Izumi - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Izumi is Director of Education Studies for the Pacific
Research Institute and
Senior Fellow in California Studies. He is a leading expert in
education policy and the author of several major PRI studies.
[go to Izumi index]
Idea Worth Considering
A simple notion to maximize education funds...
[Lance T. Izumi] 11/7/03
large budget deficit facing California in 2004-05, conventional
thinking isn't going to get the fiscal job done.
Even the sacred cow of education funding shouldn't be exempt
from new and better scrutiny. Assemblywoman Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster)
has an idea that would save hundreds of millions of dollars
per year, but which challenges the way early education has
been done in California for years.
law, school districts must admit a child to kindergarten if
that child will have his or her fifth birthday on or before
December 2 of that school year, which means that some four-year-old
children now enter kindergarten. Runner proposes that only
children who have their fifth birthday on or before September
1 of that school year can enter kindergarten. Children younger
than five, with some exceptions, would have to wait until the
next year. The fiscal effect of this change would be dramatic.
Analyst's Office (LAO) estimates that Runner's proposal would
reduce kindergarten enrollment by 20 percent
in 2003-04. By reducing the number of children entering school,
the average-daily-attendance (ADA) figure used to calculate
the state's education funding obligations under Proposition
98, which guarantees a minimum funding level for education,
would be lowered. The lower growth in ADA would produce a smaller
Prop. 98 minimum guarantee, which the LAO estimates would have
resulted in a $600-million savings in 2003-04.
The LAO also
observed that Runner's proposal would reduce the cost of K-12
programs because school districts would have fewer
students to serve. Fewer students means that the amount the
state sends down to local districts in the form of revenue
limits, which are unrestricted funds that districts can spend
as they see fit, would be reduced. The LAO estimates savings
of $550 million. That savings figure would continue per year
for 13 years since the lower school population would be felt
in successive grades until that class of children graduated
from high school.
LAO estimates reductions in categorical spending, which are
funds earmarked by the state for specific purposes such
as class-size reduction, of $200 million per year for 13 years.
Revenue-limit and categorical-spending savings together would
total $750 million per year.
education would be getting $600 million less per year due to
a lowered Prop. 98 guarantee, revenue-limit and
categorical-spending savings of $750 million per year means
that education would actually have $150 million in "excess
savings" that could be redirected to whatever education
priorities Governor Schwarzenegger and the legislature choose.
The governor-elect, who has said he wants to protect education
funding, can do so and trim spending at the same time.
argue that Runner's proposal denies some children access to
kindergarten. Yet most states have an earlier birthday cutoff
date for kindergarten than California. Further, parents who
believe that their children are ready for kindergarten at a
younger age can use a waiver clause in Runner's proposal. While
determinations of developmentally appropriate learning shouldn't
be set in stone, there is research to show that children perform
better if they enter school at a somewhat older age.
current crisis demands that lawmakers rethink all aspects of
government policy. Assemblywoman Runner has offered
an idea that should be part of that rethinking process.
2003 Pacific Research Institute