When California passed Prop 13 in 1978, it capped property taxes in the state. That meant a big reduction in tax revenue. One of the areas most affected: public schools. California went from having some of the highest per student funding of schools — to among the lowest in the nation.
“Cities like LA have some of the largest student to teacher ratios in the country, which means that our kids in our schools have 35, sometimes more students in a class,” says Pedro Noguera, Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education. “That impacts the quality of education, particularly in the districts where poverty is the greatest.”
Noguera says affluent families have more choices when it comes to education, deepening the inequity in the system. “Anybody with money, with resources, will not put their kids in the public schools. They’ll put their kids in private schools or they’ll move to places like Culver City or Santa Monica, where more money is spent per pupil.”
That means many families with kids in LAUSD are there simply because they don’t have other options, according to Noguera.
Noguera says LA schools are currently in the middle of the pack in terms of per student funding. That could improve if a future coronavirus bailout package includes public school funding, a scenario he thinks looks unlikely. In the long term, he says it would require a change to the tax structure in California.