Tracking Common Core Spending in California is Problematic

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How much has California schools spent on implementing Common Core? Who knows? EdSource reports that budget laws have made tracking the money difficult.

We are shocked….

They report:

The Fresno and Visalia school districts are spending $10 million each on new schools.

San Jose Unified put about $12 million toward staff bonuses, while Santa Ana Unified spent $9 million on retiree benefits.

The money is coming from about $3.6 billion in tax revenues California’s more than 1,000 school districts received over the past two years. The Legislature specified that it “intended” for districts to “prioritize” spending of the one-time funds on implementing academic standards, including Common Core standards in math and English.

But lawmakers also told districts that they first had to spend the funds to pay for any unreimbursed claims for programs and services mandated by the state. They could also spend the funds for “any other purpose.”

That multipronged and even confusing message has prompted several advocates, along with a key legislator on education matters, to argue that the funds should have been targeted for more specific purposes – and that districts should be required to report more precisely how they spent the funds.

Unlike what we’ve seen in other states apparently unfunded mandates in California are not allowed.

Under the California Constitution, the state must reimburse school districts for new programs or higher levels of service the state imposes on them. Over the years, the state has imposed dozens of them, ranging from student health screenings to the California High School Exit Exam.

On one hand it’s great that local school districts are not on the hook for state mandates. On the other hand California loves its additional mandates on local school districts and taxpayers are still on the hook.

Local school districts should have flexibility on how it spends money, but they also need to be transparent about how much money is spent on Common Core implementation. We need to know what this monstrosity of an education reform is costing taxpayers in California and elsewhere.