School hallway

by Joanne Faryon | KPBS and Kevin Crowe | inewsource

California’s school districts are in deep financial trouble, but some districts in rich neighborhoods are faring quite well, according to a KPBS/inewsource investigation.

In California, neighborhood property values should not determine how well a public school is funded. A 40-year-old court ruling was supposed to put an end to the funding gap between schools in rich and poor neighborhoods.

But an analysis of government statistics revealed some small school districts in affluent communities have nearly twice the per-pupil funding as other districts.

Above: Tom Torlakson, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Credt: CA Dept. of Education

Tom Torlakson is the state’s newly elected superintendent of public education. In response to the KPBS/inewsource investigation, Torlakson said on twitter he’s concerned about the inequities and his transition team has a committee looking at the issue.

Brooks Allen, the Director of Education Advocacy for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, said education cuts across the state are painful for everyone, but the inequities in the system are “quite disturbing.”

“These wide disparities in funding between one district and a neighboring district are precisely the issues that drove plaintiffs to file the Serrano v. Priest action,” Allen said. That 1968 California Supreme Court ruling ordered the state to address the gap between rich and poor neighborhoods.

Search a map of the basic aid districts.

Listen to the investigation on KPBS.

Joanne Faryon is a freelance reporter and former inewsource and KPBS reporter.