Commentary: Call for full and fair funding of public schools

This January, the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution calling for full and fair funding of California’s public schools. They join school board members from across the state in urging California legislators to make public education a higher priority.

California has the sixth largest economy in the world yet ranks 45th nationally in the percentage of taxable income spent on education and 41st in per-pupil funding. GUSD and other public school districts are asking state legislators to fund California public schools at the national average or higher by the year 2020 and at a level that is equal to or above the average of the top 10 states nationally by 2025.

Gov. Brown’s January budget proposal includes a plan to fully fund all Local Control Funding Formula targets two years ahead of schedule. Although this is generally good news, it still falls short of what is needed to remove the funding threats and sustain the exceptional, innovative programs that we know give students the broadest educational experiences.

Based on the governor’s January budget proposal, we anticipate close to a 5.5% increase in revenues next year. However, like other school districts, GUSD requires a 4% to 5% annual revenue increase just to cover basic inflationary increases on supplies and equipment, and built-in annual expenses such as step-and-column wage increases, required increases for health and welfare benefits, and STRS and PERS contributions.

A substantial annual increase in public education funding would enable GUSD to provide even more innovative programs to meet students’ needs, purchase additional educational tools, increase professional training to implement state academic standards, reduce class sizes and attract top talent to the teaching profession. As importantly, it would allow our district to maintain a strong reserve in preparation for a future economic downturn.

If California is to close opportunity and achievement gaps and create a public school system that offers consistently high levels of education, as well as lead the nation academically, the state must provide schools with the resources to meet the needs of every student. Remember the words of American author and educator Neil Postman: “children are living messages that we send to a time that we will not see.” Our students deserve the best we can provide.

Please join voices with the thousands of California school board members who are calling for the full and fair funding of public schools.

Winfred B. Roberson Jr. is superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District.