California’s K-12 education spending per student has increased significantly since 2012-13, but continues to trail the nation as a whole. While not reflective of how much it actually costs to provide California’s students a high-quality education, rankings of state K-12 education spending are often used to assess California’s public investment in its schools. According to the most recent available information,
- In 2015-16, California ranked 41st among all states in spending per K-12 student after adjusting for differences in the cost of living in each state (see table below). California schools spent $10,291 per K-12 student in 2015-16, which is about $1,900 less than the $12,252 per student spent by the nation as a whole. California’s spending per student in 2015-16 was about $2,000 higher than it had been in 2012-13, at which point California ranked 50th in the nation.
- California ranked 37th among all states in K-12 spending as a share of the state economy in 2015-16. California’s K-12 school spending in 2015-16 was 3.29% of state personal income — a measure that reflects the size of the state’s economy — compared to 3.78% in the nation as a whole. In 2012-13, California’s K-12 school spending equaled 3.18% of state personal income — compared to 3.93% in the nation as a whole — and ranked 46th among all states. Gauging school spending as a share of the personal income received by the state’s residents can be useful because it takes into account differences in states’ wealth and thus in their capacity to support K-12 schools.
- California ranked last in the nation in the number of K-12 students per teacher in 2015-16. California’s student-to-teacher ratio in 2015-16 was greater than 22-to-1, more than 40% higher than the national ratio of 15.4 students per teacher. California had also ranked last in the nation in the number of K-12 students per teacher in 2012-13, with a ratio greater than 24-to-1.
- California ranks last or close to last in the nation in the number of students per staff. In 2012-13 (the most recent year for which data are available), California’s student-to-librarian ratio was more than 7,800-to-1 (ranking 51st), its student-to-guidance-counselor ratio was 790-to-1 (51st), and its student-to-administrator ratio was 315-to-1 (48th).
In 2012-13, the gap between California’s spending per K-12 student and the nation as a whole grew to its widest point in at least 40 years. California voters approved Proposition 30 in November 2012, which increased state revenues and provided a significant boost to K-12 school spending. However, the latest figures illustrate that a sizable gap between California spending per K-12 student and the US remains. Accounting for differences in states’ costs of living, California would have needed to spend an additional $13.5 billion in 2015-16 to equal spending per K-12 student in the nation as a whole, an increase of 19.1%.
Substantially increasing California’s K-12 education spending almost certainly depends on the state raising additional revenue. Prop. 55, approved by voters in November 2016, extended Prop. 30’s personal income tax rates for very high-income Californians through 2030 (they had been scheduled to expire at the end of 2018), but did not extend Prop. 30’s quarter-cent increase in the state sales tax rate, which expired at the end of 2016. As a result, the Prop. 55 tax rate extensions will not affect state support for K-12 schools until 2018-19 and are unlikely to increase the level of state revenue compared to the boost that Prop. 30 provided.
 All state rankings and related comparisons in this fact sheet include the District of Columbia. For a discussion of why the amount that California is reported to spend per K-12 student, as well as its ranking relative to other states, varies depending on the source of this information and how it is interpreted, see Jonathan Kaplan, Key Considerations When Comparing California K-12 School Spending to Other States (California Budget & Policy Center: August 2015).
 Without adjusting for differences in states’ costs of living, California ranked 28th in the nation.
 California’s K-12 spending per student reflects a Budget Center analysis that adjusts spending figures for variations in states’ costs of living. This adjustment uses a “comparable wage index” developed by Dr. Lori Taylor at Texas A&M University and William Fowler, Jr. at the National Center for Education Statistics, and subsequently updated by Dr. Taylor. This index is a commonly used method of adjusting K-12 spending for differences in states’ costs of living. For example, see Education Week, Quality Counts 2017: Building on ESSA’s K-12 Foundation (December 2016).
 Proposition 30 raised the state sales tax rate through 2016 and the personal income tax rates on high-income taxpayers through 2018.