of Public Instruction
Board of Equalization
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| Arguments for
| Arguments against
An initiative that limits school spending on administration.
The idea that there is too much administrative
fat in the state's schools is one of the few things on which those with otherwise
disparate views on school reform agree. At the same time, the concept of "performance-based
budgeting" is a notion gaining considerable support among many educators and
parents concerned that there be some consequences for districts that continue to
perform poorly. Proposition 223 seeks to wed the concepts in an effort to increase
administrative efficiency, all under the banner "95-5" -- 95 percent to
the classroom, 5 percent to administration. Proposition 223 is not specific about
how performance budgeting would actually be implemented in local districts, which
would be required to get an independent evaluation every five years beginning in
2004-2005. The legislative analyst estimates costs of approximately $10 million annually
to implement performance budgeting, plus some $20 million every five years for the
independent performance audits. In 1996-97, K-12 public schools in California spent
about $34 billion from federal, state and local sources. Also at issue in the measure
is exactly what would count under the 5 percent that goes to administration. According
to the Legislative Analyst's Office, some expenses are "easy to classify"
based on the definitions in the initiative -- teacher salaries are clearly a direct
service, for example, while board and superintendent costs are clearly administrative.
But other expenses are more difficult to define within the 95-5 requirements: printing
and duplication expenses, for example, that are prepared in a central administration
location rather than at a school site. Based on "current reporting practices,"
the LAO estimates that districts spend an average of 7.3 percent on administrative
costs -- about $700 million more than the initiative would allow. The proposition
imposes stiff fines -- approximately $175 per student -- on districts that fail to
Proposition 223, referred to by supporters
as "95-5" initiative, requires each of California's 994 school districts
to limit certain administrative costs to 5 percent of all federal, state and local
funds received, beginning in 1999-2000. Presumably, this means that 95 percent of
all funds will go to the actual education of children in K-12, including the salaries
of classroom teachers. It also requires each school district, beginning in 1998-99
to tie its annual budget to specific outcomes, generally related to improvements
in student performance. Penalties are imposed for non-compliance.
Prop. 223 proponents -- principally the United
Teachers of Los Angeles, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Los Angeles Mayor Richard
Riordan -- argue that California school districts are rife with "wasteful spending"
practices which translate into fewer dollars for the education of children. Tax dollars,
they argue, should be spent at the school sites, rather than on administrators at
central offices. The national average for administration is a little under five percent
while California, they contend, spends twice that, and a few districts are in the
range of 20 percent. Priority in education should be placed on smaller class sizes,
more teachers, updated textbooks, computers, after-school programs, an end to social
promotions as well as cleaner and safer schools." Proponents also claim the
initiative will shift $500 million-plus per year to direct services for schoolchildren.
Opposition to Prop. 223 is being led by the
Association of California School Administrators, which says it plans to raise $1
million to defeat the measure. Also opposed are the California PTA, the California
Association of Suburban School Districts and the Small School Districts Association.
They contend the initiative would severely harm small and mid-size school districts
by imposing the 5 percent limit, putting money instead into the massive L.A. Unified
School District. They say the comparisons between California and other states are
"phony," and that the initiative uses misleading statistics and categories
which, for example, would place a school bus mechanic in the "administrative"
category. The California PTA argues that 223 "locks in" a 95/5 formula
which most school districts "lack the economy-of-scale" to meet, thus penalizing
smaller schools. The California Teachers Association has taken neutral stance on
--- Article by Sigrid Bathen