LAUSD instructor Edna Esguerra teaches chemistry to a class of 30 students during a summer school...
It's difficult to believe now, but there was a time -- through the eras of flower children, bell bottoms and disco -- when the Golden State was widely seen as the gold standard on education spending.
Class sizes were low. Schools were well maintained. Textbooks and other instructional materials were new.
Back then, California ranked in the top 10 nationwide in per pupil education spending.
The abundance made an impression on Michael Kirst, now the president of the California State Board of Education, when he moved to California from Virginia in 1969.
"There was free summer school for every kid that wanted it," he said. "I'd never heard of such a thing."
A multitude of factors has caused California's relative standing in school spending to sink like a gold coin in a swimming pool.

THE HARD TRUTH about education funding

  • No link: Funding and academic performance aren't necessarily linked. (Texas is funded at a similar level to California, yet its students perform quite a bit better.)

  • A little-known fact: Brown's Local Control Funding Formula played surprisingly well among Republicans. (It passed with Republican majorities in both chambers.)

  • Pay day: California's teachers are the fifth highest paid in the nation, according to the National Education Association.

  • Ratio: California's schools are dead last on the ratio of adults to students in schools.

  • Tumble: Back in the 1960s, California's per-pupil spending ranked in the top 10 nationwide.
    Source: LANG research

  • The state now ranks 35th in per pupil spending, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Factor in cost-of-living considerations and California's place in the pecking order among all 50 states and the District of Columbia is a dismal 49. That's ahead of only Nevada and Utah, according to a widely cited annual January report by Education Week. (Per-pupil spending figures from Education Week include state and local funds, but not federal money, or funds for capital improvements. Census figures include federal dollars but also exclude capital outlay.)
    However, the needle is poised to begin moving in the other direction, thanks to two big game-changers. One is the November passage of