Posted by Concerned Community Member, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:30 pm
I am, literally, afraid to post this for fear of uninformed and blistering comment. But perhaps people have real answers -- which would be SO valuable -- rather than opinions and prejudices.
The Ravenswood School District spent $11,241 per "average daily attendee" in 2005-06 according to Ed-Data (www.ed-data.k12.ca.us) compared with $10,719 in next-door Menlo Park City School District. I have adjusted these figures downward to exclude "transfers between agencies" (which just makes Ravenswood look $1000 worse). Unadjusted figures for other districts are $12,238 for Palo Alto, $9561 for Beverly Hills, $7379 for Milpitas Unified, and $7971 for the state as a whole.
How can Ravenswood seem to be spending so much and still end up in the bottom ten percent of California schools?
Is part of the problem the definition of "average daily attendee?"" Is the Ravenswood number hiding more students who are absent more often than at Menlo, PA, etc., and also transfering in and out of the school district with their itinerant families? This would need to be a large factor to make such a big difference, but it could be part of the problem.
In the (California Department of Education) data, $1000 per student LESS is spent on instruction in Ravenswood than in Menlo and $200 less on instructional library, media and technology. MORE is spent on Special Ed ($200), Instructional Supervision & Admin ($200), School Administration ($200), Pupil Transportation ($200 -- I get that one), $200 for Plant Maintenance, and $300 on other General Administration (seems like District-level). (EMPHASIS for clarity only!)
Are there many more (smaller) schools there? Menlo just has four very large ones, which may be marginally cheaper to run.
Is the instructional component (mainly teachers) cheaper, but either much older entrenched teachers or much younger inexperienced ones?
Or is it the resident base? My reading of the STAR tests would indicate that the Hispanic kids in the Menlo district (primarily, I believe, there through the Tinsley transfer program from Ravenswood) score just marginally above Ravenswood's in second grade -- but much lower than either the Hispanic population in California as a whole or the white Menlo kids -- and only manage to pull it up by 5th grade to slightly below the general California Hispanic population ... and still nowhere near the white kids in Menlo. That's with six years in Menlo schools -- not Ravenswood's. And would indicate that the level of teaching is only somewhat to blame if it takes Menlo six years to get marginal progress.
Or is some of the problem the way the money "crosses the transom?" 87% of Menlo's money is "unrestricted" -- primarily from property taxes -- while only 59% of Ravenswood's is. (The state average is 65% unrestricted for elementary districts.) The rest of Ravenswood's funding comes from a potpourri of No Child Left Behind and other restricted federal funds, and restricted State funds. Possibly just accounting for all the sources and uses sucks up a lot of energy?
I hope you can tell that I am NOT interested in answers that involve rants against illegal immigrants, etc., but I suspect some real thought has gone into this somewhere in the community. If so, it would answer my question related to this article -- why did residents vote more money to the district (or, rather, a continuance of past money), when, on the surface, it doesn't appear to be paying off?