Schools Stretched Thin

California’s drastic budget cuts have stacked the decks against local schools – hitting hardest in communities already facing the greatest challenges. Larger class sizes and fewer school days mean educators have more challenges and less time to tackle the learning divide.

 Average Expenditure Per Pupil
Source: Report on the Conditions of Children in
Orange County
, 2011, page 96

With more than $1 billion in reduced state funding for Orange County schools since 2007–2008, public schools have fewer resources to address achievement gaps than ever before. Reductions in funding have resulted in larger class sizes and fewer school days. In addition, many students lack access to after-school or other enhanced programs designed to overcome educational disparities.

Average per pupil spending in Orange County is consistently lower than national and even state averages, with an 8 percent drop over the past three school years alone. State aid per Orange County student dropped by 20 percent over the past three years, a trend likely to worsen with California’s current financial crisis.

These budget issues significantly impact Orange County students’ ability to thrive.

By the Numbers: Average Class Size 2008–2009
Source: California Department of Education Educational Demographics (Ed Data),
Orange County 2010-2011

The average class size in Orange County is 29 students—compared to a statewide average of 24 students per class. Larger class sizes reduce the frequency of student-teacher interaction and hands-on activities, and hinder teachers’ ability to identify learning difficulties in a timely manner. In areas with high English-learner populations, individualized attention becomes even more challenging.

Additionally, school districts located in lower socioeconomic areas often require higher per pupil spending due to the increased challenges that poverty presents for students’ academic achievement. Schools with a high proportion of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL), for example, score significantly lower in math and reading—a 13 percent difference—than those with a less economically-challenged student population.