Overview of K-12 Education in California
Important Education Statistics:
– State Superintendent: Tony Thurmond
– Number of Students: 5,496,271
– Number of Teachers: 319,004 
– Teacher/Pupil Ratio: 1:17.2
– Number of School Districts: 977
– Number of Schools: 9,006
– Graduation Rate: 85%
– Per-Pupil Spending: $14,031
California’s public school system, from prekindergarten through grade 12, is composed of districts governed by locally elected school boards and superintendents. As of 2022, the state had 5,496,271 students enrolled in 9,006 schools across 977 school districts. There were approximately 319,004 teachers in public schools, resulting in an average teacher-to-student ratio of 1:17, compared to the national average of 1:16. In 2020, California spent an average of $14,031 per pupil. The state’s graduation rate for the 2018-2019 school year was 85% .
Comparison with Neighboring States
The following chart compares California with three neighboring states in terms of the number of students, schools, teachers per pupil, and administrators per pupil for the 2012-2013 school year. It also provides national-level data for comparison. Notably, California had the highest teacher-to-student ratio among its neighboring states at 1:24 :
Regional Comparison, 2012-2013
State Schools Districts Students Teachers Teacher to Pupil Ratio Per Pupil Spending
California 9,006 977 5,496,271 319,004 1:17.2 $14,031
Arizona 90,323 13,194 47,755,383 2,783,705 1:16 $13,494
Nevada 34 28% 27% 30% 1:30 $16,800
Oregon 40 34% 33% 37% 1:37 $18,000
United States 41% 34% 34% 34% 1:34 $15,000
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides state-by-state data on student achievement in mathematics and reading. In the 2012-2013 school year, California’s fourth-grade students performed the worst in mathematics, with only 33% scoring at or above proficient :
Percent of students scoring at or above proficient, 2012-2013
Math – Grade 4 Math – Grade 8 Reading – Grade 4 Reading – Grade 8
California 33% 28% 27% 29%
Arizona 40% 31% 28% 28%
Nevada 34% 28% 27% 30%
Oregon 40% 34% 33% 37%
United States 41% 34% 34% 34%
Graduation, ACT, and SAT Scores
Here is a table showing graduation rates and average ACT and SAT scores for California and neighboring states in the 2012-2013 school year :
Comparison Table for Graduation Rates and Test Scores, 2012-2013
State Graduation Rate Average ACT Composite Average SAT Composite
California 80.4% 22.2 1,505
Arizona 75.1% 19.6 1,551
Nevada 70.7% 21.3 1,454
Oregon 68.7% 21.5 1,539
United States 81.4% 20.9 1,498
Educational Choice Options
In California, educational choice options include charter schools, online learning programs, and open enrollment policies. Additionally, approximately 9% of school-age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67% were homeschooled in 2012-13.
Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020)
On June 30, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case concerning the exclusion of religious institutions from student-aid programs. The Supreme Court held that the application of a provision in the Montana Constitution violated the free exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution. This case addressed the tension between the free exercise and Establishment clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the intersections of state constitutions with state and federal law. It is important to note that California is one of the states with a similar provision in its constitution.
Education Funding and Expenditures
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), states spent an average of 19.8% of their total budgets on elementary and secondary education during fiscal year 2013. California spent approximately 21.4% of its budget on elementary and secondary education during the same period. The primary source of revenue for California’s school systems is state funds, and the state spent the second-highest percentage of its total budget on public education compared to its neighboring states .
Revenues and Expenditures
According to the United States Census Bureau, public school system revenues in California totaled approximately $66.4 billion in fiscal year 2013, with the primary source of revenue coming from state funding. California had the highest total public school system revenues in the country during that fiscal year. In terms of expenditures, public education in California totaled approximately $68 billion in fiscal year 2012, the highest among all states .
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average salary for classroom teachers in public elementary and secondary schools in California increased by 6.4% from the 1999-2000 school year to the 2012-2013 school year. In contrast, the average national salary for teachers in public schools declined by 1.3% during the same period .
State Agencies and Unions
The California Department of Education serves the state by collaborating with educators, schools, parents, and community partners to provide a world-class education for all students. The state superintendent of public instruction is responsible for overseeing the department, and the California State Board of Education determines K-12 policies for the state. California also has influential teacher unions, such as the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), which have been assessed as having significant power and influence in education policy .
Elections and School Board Composition
School board members in California are generally elected by residents of the school district, but some members may be appointed to county boards of education. California school board elections follow different methods, including at-large systems, trustee areas, or a combination of both. School boards can consist of three, five, or seven members who serve staggered four-year terms. Term limits for school board members can be imposed at the local level .
Recent Legislation and Ballot Measures
The California state legislature has introduced and passed various education-related bills. These include laws regarding education funding, governance, and policy. Additionally, the state has had numerous education-related ballot measures over the years, covering topics such as school construction, funding, and reforms [Source: Ballotpedia].
In the News
For the latest news on California education policy, you can search for articles using the terms “California education policy” on Google News.
For more information on public education in California, you can visit the California Department of Education website. The website provides access to data, resources, and information on curriculum, testing, and accountability. You can also explore the California Education Laws and Regulations for a comprehensive overview of education policies in the state. Additionally, the California School Finder website provides useful data on schools in the state, promoting transparency and accountability.