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PORTRAIT OF A SCHOOL : State Figures Show an Average 63% of Funds Is Spent in the Classrooms

November 11, 1987|From Times Wire Services

SACRAMENTO — The average public school in California spends 63% of its money in its classrooms, 19% on maintenance and operations and 6% on administration, according to figures released Tuesday by state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig.

Honig said the financial portrait of an average school is the first compiled by any state.

Honig said at a news conference that the six-month study used statewide figures to create an "average school" and reflects a ratio of one administrator to 20 teachers and other school personnel.

"People have it in their minds that all the money going into education is being absorbed by administration," Honig said. "It turns out that's not the fact."

"It's pretty apparent when you look at this that most of the money is coming out of the business end of the gun," he said.

He said the figures for an average California school were extrapolated from 1985-86 data collected by the California Basic Educational Data System. The figures show the 7,362 kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools receiving $15.1 billion in federal, state and local funds, which averages $2 million per school.

"While no single school in the state mirrors the 'hypothetical' school, it is useful to talk about the average school because it presents a composite view of the people and costs for the whole school system in easily understandable terms," Honig said.

Special Education Class

The hypothetical school in the study has 578 students in 22 classrooms, including one special education class, Honig said. The largest share of the budget--$1.9 million, or 94%--is spent on classroom and school site costs while $120,000, or 5.5 %, covers district and county administration costs. One-half of 1% covers state Department of Education costs.

"We have a major image problem in schools," Honig said. "In people's minds, when you say school expenditures, they think there's a huge amount at the state level, there's a huge amount in administration. We're always fighting that--you're wasting a lot of money."

Honig said the money spent for California education works out to about $3.70 per hour per student.

The study also showed that food services in schools statewide provide 2.5 million meals a day at an average cost of $1.54 a meal. School districts transported 910,000 students to and from schools in 15,000 buses, traveling 215 million miles, an average cost of about 6 cents a mile.

He said the numbers will be used as "a benchmark and management tool" for policy discussions on educational spending. He said that California is the first state in the nation to compile such figures and that they reveal "a level of detail not available before."

Honig said the study was not done in response to a review of public education in California ordered by Gov. George Deukmejian. The governor created a commission to review education spending and efficiency earlier this year after Honig called Deukmejian's budget "a disaster" for public education.

Results Forwarded

Honig said the results of the study will be sent to the commission and should help the "overall strategy" for state education. Part of that strategy, Honig said, involves a plan to modify and update the state spending limit.

The state last year reached the so-called Gann Limit, which limits government spending by linking it to growth in inflation and population, and created a $1.1-billion surplus that under law had to be returned to taxpayers.

Honig, who lobbied heavily that the rebate money should go to schools, said the rebate "took $150,000 out of every school," which could have been used for teacher salaries, new textbooks and teacher training.


Based on a sampling of 7,362 schools, kindergarten through grade 12, here is a profile of the average California school.

Size 578 students in 22 classrooms (1 special education) Operating budget: $2.05 million Where the money goes Classroom costs: 63% Classroom teachers 45%; specialized teachers (music, reading, art, special education) 5%; teacher aides 5%; pupil support (counselors, nurses, librarians, psychologists) 4%; books 4% School site costs: 31% Operations and maintenance 19%; buildings 12%; food 4%; transportation 3%; instructional support (curriculum supervisors, library aides, media technicians) 5%; principal's office (principal, part-time vice principal, clerks, secretaries) 7% District/County administrative costs: 5.5% State Department of Education administrative costs: 0.5%

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