Does California Care about Education?

graph2For the sake of this article, care = spending. I wanted to see if the level of spending on education in California reflects a populace that cares about education? Are we committed? Do we put our money where our mouths are?

California teacher salaries show we care about education.

In 2011-2012, the average salary for a teacher in California was $69,496.

Average California teacher salaries are compared to averages in all other states in the table below. California teachers since 1969-70 have ranked from a low of 8th out of 50 states to a high of 3rd and in the most current year California teachers rank 4th.


California Rank Among All States















National Center for Educational Statistics

California makes education a priority in the state budget.

The bullets below show the percentage of expenditures on various budget categories including education as a percentage of the total state budget. The data show that California ranks #50 in transportation spending, #1 in Public Assistance, and #3 in Corrections spending. California ranks above average in K-12 education spending and below average in Higher Education spending.

Distribution of state expenditures by category as a percentage of the total state budget

Spending as percentage of total budget (2009)*

  • Elementary and Secondary Education = 23.6%, rank #17 (Texas #1 @31%, National Average 21.7%)
  • **Higher Ed = 7.7%, rank #37 (Iowa #1 @ 25.6%, National Average 10.4%)
  • Public Assistance = 5.3%, rank #1 (Massachusetts #2 @ 3.1%, National Average 1.7%)
  • **Medicaid = 20.6%, rank #27 (Missouri #1 @ 32.4%, National Average 21.4%)
  • Corrections = 4.9%, rank #3 (Nevada #1 @ 5.2%, National Average 3.4%)
  • **Transportation = 4.1%, rank #50 (Nevada #1 @ 16.5%, National Average 7.8%)
  • All other expenditures = California = 34%, rank #24 (Wyoming #1 @ 61.3%, National Average 33.9%)

*(AFT citing National Association of State Budget Officers. 2008, 2007 and 2006 State Expenditure Report. Washington, DC: 2009, 2008, and 2007.

**Categories in which California spends less than the National Average of all states.

The data show that California pays its teachers very well in comparison to all other states and has done for decades. The data also show that California funds Elementary and Secondary education at above average levels as a percentage of the state’s total budget; not so in higher education where California ranks below the national average.

Where caring = spending, Californians care about its K-12 school children but we should renew our commitment to higher education. We can properly fund our university system if we place less emphasis on locking some people up, and paying others to sit on their asses.