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CA Education History

How Did We Get Here?

Below is a chronology¹ of key legislation that has brought California to its current state of inadequate and irrational system of education funding.

1968 Serrano v. Priest

Lawsuit challenging the fairness of California's system for funding K-12 education.

1972 SB 90

Established revenue limits, a ceiling on the amount of general purpose money each school district may receive.

1976 Serrano v. Priest

The California Supreme Court ruling that the school finance system was inequitable and required the state to equalize general purpose funding for schools.

1978 Proposition 13

Constitutional amendment limiting property tax rates and increases.

1988 Proposition 98

Constitutional amendment that guarantees a minimum level of funding for K-14 education (amended by Proposition 111 in 1990).

There is a pending lawsuit, Robles-Wong vs. State of California, asking the State of California to fulfill its constitutional obligation to support public schools. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the California State PTA, the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators. Plaintiffs include nine school districts, as well as individual students and their families. Plaintiff Maya Robles-Wong is a 16-year-old 11th-grader at Alameda High School. More recently, a second similar lawsuit was filed: Campaign for Quality Education.

Where does this all leave us? Due to the passage of Proposition 13, funding to schools was significantly cut due to the overall reduction in total property tax revenue (on average, property taxes were reduced by half). The effect of the Serrano v. Priest rulings resulted in a leveling down of funding for schools in spite of the original intent of the plaintiffs to level up funding. Proposition 13 and the Serrano v. Priest rulings also had the effect of shifting financing of public schools from the local to the state level. Despite the passage of Proposition 98 which guarantees a minimum level of support for schools, the state’s budget crisis beginning in 2001 has meant that California continues to fall behind most other states in education funding continuing a decline starting in the 1980s.

1 - http://www.eddata.k12.ca.us/articles/article.asp?title=chronology