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As a result of legislation required by a 1970s lawsuit, the California state legislature determines annually how much money school districts will receive as a base amount for each student enrolled. Funds are divided into two categories – General Purpose and Categorical. General purpose funds are meant to be more or less equal per pupil throughout the state, regardless of district. (About ten percent of districts, however, can keep their share of property taxes allocated for education. These districts are called “basic aid.”) Categorical funds are designated for specific programs tied to district demographics, socioeconomics or special needs. Districts with the most need receive more Categorical funding. While the goal of the legislation was laudable — to equalize education funding among economically diverse communities – its consequences have become problematic. Central authority has replaced local decisionmaking which produces inefficiencies. Scarce resources are put into Categorical programs to help under-performing districts while high-performing disctricts are effectively punished for their success.
In fact, local property taxes amount to a little less than 23% of all school funding in the state. Because school funding comes from fluctuating sources of revenue, school budgeting is especially difficult. Though Proposition 98 sought to regulate funding, it has not alleviated a “feast or famine” budgeting scenario for most school districts. You can learn more about California school funding at www.edsource.org
Academically, Manhattan Beach Unified School District ranks in the top five among other unified districts. Over time, the district has become one of the finest in the state, if not the nation, with a level of academics that rivals private schools. The other top unified school districts, and even nearby Palos Verdes, have created education foundations and passed parcel taxes to supplement state funding. Their parcel tax dollars go directly to their school district and can be used as the district chooses. Manhattan Beach has earned this high ranking without a parcel tax.
Without a parcel tax in Manhattan Beach, your support of MBEF is even more critical. All the MBEF programs enrich your child’s educational experience, and they would be impossible without you.