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Academic spending varies widely across state school districts

June 3, 2011 8:09:39 PM PDT
Does more school spending translate into higher test scores? Not necessarily, according to California Watch, a nonprofit investigative organization. Eyewitness News teamed up with California Watch to find out more about the impact of school budgets on student performance.

Students and parents at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley can have the pride of knowing their state test scores improved more than any other high school in the Moreno Valley Unified School District.

And across the district, the test score average is about the same as many other districts that receive a lot more in state funding.

Oakland Unified has a student population similar in size and diversity. Their academic performance index scores are pretty close too.

But the money Oakland received was more than $3,000 more, on average, per student than Moreno Valley.

California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst says it's a good example of why Sacramento needs to change how it passes out money to districts across the state.

"Our current school finance formula has just built up over the years without any rationality to it," said Kirst.

So with the Moreno Valley Unified School District not getting as much money per student as other districts in the state, the question is, How do they make up for it?

"I don't think money is what solves the problem, it's focusing the dollars on the high-need area," said Dan Reed, director of accountability, assessment and training for the Moreno Valley Unified School District.

Reed says in other words, it's not how much money you get, but how you spend it. But he says at a certain point, you do need proper funding.

"Put a good teacher in a classroom and pay them appropriately, and test scores are going to go up. Provide resources that they need, the textbooks, a good, clean, environment to learn, a safe environment, test scores are going to go up," said Kirst.

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