School Funding Basics

California handles school finance differently than most every other state.  Where most states allow towns and counties to levy taxes to finance the schools they desire, in California, school finance is controlled by the state legislature.  The legislature determines annually how much money school districts will receive as a base amount for each student enrolled.  (About ten percent of districts, however, can keep their share of property taxes allocated for education. These districts are called “basic aid.”) In June 2013, new legislation was passed to provide English Language Learners and impoverished students additional funding over and above the base funding that all school districts receive. While the goal of this legislation is laudable — to give students who require more educational resources more funding — its consequences are problematic for our high-performing district.  Scarce resources are put into funding to help under-performing districts while we must make do with less.

In additional to lacking local control over tax revenue, our state has limited sources of revenue for schools. California spends less money per student than almost every other state and nearly three times less than the most generous states spend.

Since the passage of Proposition 13, which reduced revenue available for education funding, most of the revenue for school funding comes from business and personal income taxes, sales taxes, and some special taxes, not property taxes.

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

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.