Fiscal, Demographic, and Performance Data on California’s K-12 Schools

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School Finance Chronology

A chronology of key lawsuits, voter approved initiatives and legislation that shaped California's K-12 school finance system.


1968: Serrano v. Priest

Lawsuit challenging the fairness of California's system for funding K-12 education. 

1972: SB 90

Established revenue limits, a ceiling on the amount of general purpose money each school district may receive.

1976: Serrano v. Priest

The California Supreme Court ruling that the school finance system was inequitable.

1977: AB 65

Long term funding bill in response to the Serrano court decision.

1978: Proposition 13

Constitutional amendment limiting property tax rates and increases.

1979: AB 8

The funding method for schools after Proposition 13, with a new formula for dividing property taxes. Granted larger inflation increases to low spending districts, the "Serrano squeeze."

1979: Gann Limit

Constitutional limit on governmental spending at all levels, including school districts.

1983: SB 813

Major school improvement law, including mentor teachers, longer school day/year, higher beginning teachers’ salaries, more rigorous graduation requirements, and statewide curriculum standards.

1984: Lottery

Constitutional amendment creating the California State Lottery, with a designated percentage of earnings for education.

1988: Proposition 98

Constitutional amendment that guarantees a minimum level of funding for K-14 education (amended by Proposition 111 in 1990).

1996: SB 1777

Created incentives to reduce K-3 class sizes.

2000: Proposition 20

Constitutional amendment requiring half of growth in lottery money be used for instructional materials.

2000: Proposition 39

Constitutional amendment permitting a 55% yes vote for approval of local General Obligation bonds.

2000: Williams v. California

A lawsuit charging that California is not providing basic educational necessities for all students. Settled in 2004. The settlement also resulted in changes to the School Accountability Report Card (SARC) template that all schools must update and publish annually to include information on facilities, teacher misassignments and vacant teacher positions, and the availability of textbooks or instructional materials.

2008-09: Categorical Flexibility

In response to the economic crisis and to mitigate deep cuts to education, lawmakers enacted mid-year changes that granted schools more flexibility in how they spent categorical funds. SBX3 4 (Chapter 12, Statutes of 2009) allowed districts to use the money from 39 categorical programs for "any educational purpose" through 2012-13. It also reduced the penalties for exceeding class size limits for schools receiving funds for K-3 Class Size Reduction.

This flexibility was later extended through 2014-15 by Senate Bill 70, Chapter 7/Statutes of 2011.

2013: Local Control Funding Formula

On July 1, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a significant overhaul of the state's school finance system. The new "Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)" will eliminate most of the state's categorical programs, providing instead a base grant for every student enrolled plus 20 percent more funding for every English learner, low-income child and foster youth. Those districts in which high-needs students comprise at least 55 percent of the student body will get more money for a portion of those students. To learn more, please see: Understanding the Local Control Funding Formula.