Funding Education

Brimley and Garfield (2008) share four criteria in evaluating a tax structure. Equity, efficiency, adequacy, and adaptability are their focus. To be thorough, it is necessary to break down equity into two parts which constitutes a fifth criteria. Equity for children and equity for taxpayers.

Equity for children – Fairness in providing an equal opportunity for an education for all children.

Equity for taxpayers – Fairness for all citizens.

Efficiency – A structure of fiscal management that provides the most services at the least cost.

Adequacy – Provides adequate funding for the fiscal needs of what the institution has deemed necessary to provide such public service.

Adaptability – A system that is flexible and responsive to changing economic conditions, changes in education, and “modified social demands for education” (Brimley & Garfield, p. 124, 2008).

Revenues collected and used for education include property taxes – real property and personal property, income tax, sales tax, sumptuary taxes, severance taxes, lottery revenues, and income from bond measures (Brimley & Garfield, 2008).

Education funded largely by property taxes have been commonly accepted as a reasonable expenditure of such resources as property ownership represented wealth, and wealth was an indicator of those most able to pay (Brimley & Garfield, 2008). Brimley and Garfield go on to explain “property tax at the local level has proved to be a good and reliable source of revenue for operating schools” (Brimley & Garfield, p. 125, 2008). The authors further add that people are able to understand the purpose of these taxes and that they are easily collected. As of recent economic conditions, property ownership is not an accurate indicator of wealth. Net ownership of the property is not considered (Brimley & Garfield, 2008). Furthermore, due to less than honest loan practices, individuals were financed for properties they could not afford.

Adequacy and equity must be considered in determining the effectiveness of a system. Varied tax assessment practices exist and are often not equitable. Additionally, taxpayers look for ways to circumvent tax laws by investing their monies in types of personal property that are not taxed. In this way, true wealth of a citizen may not be determined.

Equity in education cannot exist without also looking at the demographics of geographical regions. City schools tend to have a higher population of disabled students, disadvantaged students, and minority students which adds a higher cost for establishing and supporting an adequate educational structure Income tax reflects a more accurate measurement of wealth and “is far more sensitive to economic growth than are property or sales taxes and therefore can help solve the state-local fiscal crisis” (Brimley & Garfield, p. 130, 2008). Sales taxes, according to Brimley and Garfield (2008) “are effective at the state level but are not readily manageable at the local level, especially in small school districts. Sales taxes are regressive when food items and other necessities are taxed, since low-income families generally spend a higher percentage of their income on necessities than the affluent do.” (p. 141)

Also, a rural area does not have the same ability to raise tax revenue of a higher populated community. In this way, property taxes would prove to insufficient in providing the same opportunities as either a highly populated area or an affluent neighborhood.

Income tax reflects a more accurate measurement of wealth and “is far more sensitive to economic growth than are property or sales taxes and therefore can help solve the state-local fiscal crisis” (Brimley & Garfield, p. 130, 2008). California has the ability to provide tax credits to low income households and other various needs. It would seem that income taxes, then, would be the ideal for supporting education, however; raising funds through higher income taxes is a continual battle that the majority of citizens would likely not support.

Sales taxes, according to Brimley and Garfield (2008) “are effective at the state level but are not readily manageable at the local level, especially in small school districts. Sales taxes are regressive when food items and other necessities are taxed, since low-income families generally spend a higher percentage of their income on necessities than the affluent do.” (p. 141)

Supplementing local needs through bond measures is another avenue to meeting the needs of a district. Bond measures can provide the revenue needed for new infrastructure, buildings, and modernization in ever-changing communities, however; bond measures are dependent on interest rates and the willingness of property owners to commit to paying off the debt over the course of decades. This debt may and probably will be still being paid off even when the district incurs more needs. It is a temporary solution to an immediate need.

The “lottery tax” is another regressive tax as lottery tickets are often purchased by those that can least afford to spend the money on them. Furthermore, it only makes up 2% of state revenues (Brimley & Garfield, 2008).

How should education be funded to provide revenues that will support an adequate education for all students and is fair to all stakeholders? There may never be a perfect way, but perhaps we can only aim for a “best way.” The “best way” will always evolve based on the needs of communities and be dependent on the economic fluctuations of state solvency.


Brimley, V. & Garfield, R. (2008). Financing Education in a Climate of Change. Special Edition for Concordia University Chicago. Boston, Allyn and Bacon.


A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned

I am adding “shadowing a student for a day” to my to do things list.

Granted, and...

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

View original post 1,889 more words

Williams v. California

Williams v. California, Case Number 312236, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco on May 17, 1997, [2000] and presided by Judge Peter J. Busch, involved a complaint regarding educational equity of all students (Oakes & Lipton, 2004). This was not the first case involving inequity in schools as 46 years prior, the case of Brown v. Board of Education was being heard in the courts. In Brown v. Board of Education, the primary complaint was that the segregation of students created an unequal education for black students. Therefore, the intent of the lawsuit was to integrate schools, a major civil rights achievement with the goal of creating an educational institution of equal opportunity (Oakes & Lipton, 2004). Fast forward to the year 2000 and students of low-income families and minority students often segregated geographically into separate schools based on income and race raise another flag to whether students are receiving equal services in regards to education. Williams v. California brings this into focus.

As the state of California was about to implement accountability through standardized testing which would make it necessary for students to pass and exit exam in order to receive a diploma; equity in education became a priority consideration (Oakes & Lipton, 2004).

In the case of Williams v. California, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of public school students representing 19 school districts and 48 schools, with additional attention to students from low income families and minority students claiming that the state had failed to provide these students with the necessities for a proper education (Oakes & Lipton, 2004). The plaintiffs contended that their educational rights were denied because their schools lacked qualified teachers, had insufficient supplies and textbooks, and the condition of their schools was insufficient to provide for them a safe environment for learning. The intent of this filing was the argument that it was the responsibility of the state of California to provide students with the proper tools for a sound education – safe and uncrowded schools, qualified teachers and the necessary materials for instruction. The suit further claimed that California’s state constitution and case law mandates these provisions (Oakes & Lipton, 2004).

The plaintiff, Eliezer Williams, was an African American student and the majority of the other students named in the lawsuit were minorities attending schools where more than half of the students at their schools were non-white students and qualified for free or reduced meals and many of those schools had large populations of English language learners (Oakes & Lipton, 2004). The lawsuit was brought forward to create an equal opportunity for achievement of all students.Experts stated: “The plaintiffs do not argue that the presence of teachers, books, and decent school buildings guarantee high quality schools or high levels of student achievement; rather, they contend that without these conditions, local communities face unreasonable barriers to creating and maintaining schools capable of providing and education to which California’s students have a right” (para. 12).

The plaintiffs brought evidence that would prove that inequity existed among those schools with higher percentages of minorities. One piece of data revealed that schools with more than 90% of minority students had more than 25% of their teachers lacking a full credential while in contrary, less than 5% of teachers were without full credentials in schools where the majority of the student population was white (Oakes & Lipton, 2004). The data further revealed that the schools with the greater number of teachers without full credentials taught in low income schools and schools predominately with African American and Latino students.

The state of California’s defense did not claim that they had met the needs of the students, in fact; the state turned the focus to student achievement and outcomes. It was the state’s claim that “direct action by the state” to intervene and ensure that students were all receiving necessary resources would not guarantee student achievement (Oakes & Lipton, 2004). Furthermore, the defense suggested that there is no proof that would support such action would be beneficial in achieving a favorable result. It would in fact, be interfering with the democratic system in place that allows local communities to determine their own needs and practices. The State’s experts believe in a system of rewards and sanctions that acts as a catalyst for improvement. How the local districts meet the standards established is up to the local districts (Oakes & Lipton, 2004). State expert Caroline Hoxby clarified that the extent a community supports education and what parents do is a better indicator of successful outcomes than that of the school itself (Oakes & Lipton, 2004).

State’s expert Margaret Raymond reveals (Powers, 2004) that she and other experts concede that highly qualified teachers are important for student achievement however; she concludes that the lawsuit brought forth against the state was an attempt to circumvent the constitutional policymaking process (Oakes & Lipton, 2004). Additionally, Raymond asserts that given the current state of the California budget, taking control out of the hands of local districts would not be fiscally sound and may disenfranchise parents taking away their ability to create programs they see as best fit for their children (Powers, 2004).

On August 13, 2004 a settlement was announced. The details of the settlement included: schools are entitled to a clean and safe school environment, textbooks to support all common core courses, and qualified teachers. One billion dollars was earmarked to assist in meeting the requirements of this settlement. In addition, the Williams Complaint Process was established. All school districts are now mandated to provide a complaint process that provides an avenue for students, teachers, and parents to alert schools to problems regarding insufficient materials or textbooks, unsafe conditions, issues regarding teacher placements. The Williams Complaint Procedures must be displayed at each site and made available to all stakeholders.

On September 29, 2004, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law legislation as spelled out in the settlement of the case. The following is a compilation of those laws (California Department of Education).
“SB 550 & AB 2727 (establishing minimum standards regarding school facilities, teacher quality, and instructional           materials and an accountability system to enforce these standards); AB 1550 (phasing out the use of the mufti-track, year-round school calendar with a shortened school year, known as Concept 6, by July 1, 2012 and setting benchmarks for districts to reach this goal); AB 3001 (encouraging placement of qualified teachers in low performing schools; enhancing an existing oversight mechanism to ensure that teachers are qualified to teach the subject matter to which they have been assigned and to ensure that teachers of English Learners are properly trained; and streamlining the process for highly qualified teachers from out-of-state to teach in California schools); and SB 6 (providing up to $800 million beginning in the 2005-06 fiscal year for districts to address emergent facility repair projects and approximately $25 million in 2004-05 to      assess the condition of schools in the bottom three deciles.)” (California Department of Education,

This measure reflects a shift from equity to adequacy largely by providing an avenue for accountability. As stated in the article From Equity to Adequacy, new standards and clearer expectations for schools make “it easier than ever before to seek legal redress when states fail to provide the funding that would be ‘adequate’ for meeting them” (“From Equity to Adequacy,” July, 2000).

California Department of Education. Retrieved from (

Glenn, W. J. & Picus, L. O. (2007). The “Williams” settlement and the prospects for future school finance adequacy                litigation in California. Journal of Education Finance, 32(3), 382-394.

Oakes, J., & Lipton, M. (2004). Schools that shock the conscience: Williams v. California and the struggle for education         on equal terms fifty years after Brown. Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, 15(1), 234-258.

Powers, J. M. (2004). Increasing equity and increasing school performance – Conflicting or compatible goals? Addressing the issues in “Williams v. State of California.” Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12(10), 1-30.

West Ed. (2000, July). From Equity to Adequacy (Policy Brief). San Francisco, CA: Author.

Building bridges to close the achievement gap.