Inequality in California School Finance

Dimensions, Sources, Remedies

by Arthur J. Alexander

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Who is affected by inequalities in school finance? What are the chief causes of inequalities? What is the likely impact of proposed remedies for inequality? This report addresses such questions about inequalities in school finance and answers them by drawing upon a broad range of statistical techniques applied to a comprehensive set of data on California school districts. Major findings are: (1) Variations and inequalities within any definable group — whether classified by income, race, ethnic group, or urban status — are much greater than the differences between groups. (2) The overall relationship between average family income in each school district and the district's per pupil expenditures is very close to random. (3) Assessed property values account for most variation in locally raised revenues per pupil. (4) Expenditure ceilings would affect only a handful of pupils. (5) Power-equalizing, together with state aid and minimum tax rates, can attain high equalization but power-equalizing alone will not necessarily eliminate variability in expenditures.

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