Understanding School Finance
By Roger Snyder

Board Trustee, Scotts Valley Unified School District

Scotts Valley schools are the lowest funded in Santa Cruz County.  We are the 9th lowest funded school District in the State.  What are the real numbers, and how do we compare? 

“Scotts Valley schools receive significantly less money per pupil, per grade level, than other districts in Santa Cruz County.”

The following table shows how much money we receive per pupil per year from the State of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) compared to other districts in the County:

Grade SpanDistrictPer Pupil AllocationDifference
TK – 3Pajaro$10,477$2,242
Live Oak$9,870$1,635
Santa Cruz$8,971$736
San Lorenzo Valley$8,597$362
Scotts Valley$8,235
4 – 6Pajaro$9,632$2,061
Live Oak$9,074$839
Santa Cruz$8,248$13
San Lorenzo Valley$7,904$333
Scotts Valley$7,571
7 – 8Pajaro$9,919$2,123
Live Oak$9,344$1,548
Santa Cruz$8,429$633
San Lorenzo Valley$8,138$342
Scotts Valley$7,796
9 – 12Pajaro$11,793$2,524
Santa Cruz$10,021$752
San Lorenzo Valley$9,676$407
Scotts Valley$9,269

Those per pupil differences above are really big.  Why do other schools get so much more money than we do?

You may have heard that Scotts Valley schools suffer because we are a “rural” school district.  While that used to be true, Sacramento changed school finance in 2014, implementing a new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).  This new formula hurts us in a different way – while we are required to deliver significant services to all of our students, we don’t receive sufficient funding to deliver these services.

From the table above, you can see that Districts like Pajaro and Live Oak receive way more money per student than we do.  That’s because they have higher populations of “high need” students according to the new LCFF rules – English Language Learners, low-income students, and foster youth.  Scotts Valley doesn’t qualify for hardly any of these supplemental funds, and no concentration funds.

Why is the State a poor partner in education funding?

You’ve already seen the poor funding we receive from the State.  The second problem is that the State and Federal government require us to provide significant services, without providing the funds to pay for them – these are called “unfunded mandates.”  In this year’s school budget, we are receiving $0.25 for every dollar of spending that is mandated.  This requires us to spend nearly $900,000 more than we receive in State and Federal funding.  We have to make up the difference from our reserves.  At this rate, our reserves will be exhausted in 2021.

Why not just cut the budget by $900,000? 

We have been cutting our budget every year for the last 3 years.  In this last year, we cut nearly nine teacher positions, which led to the loss of classes at the High School, termination of the award-winning Academy program at the Middle School, and transfer of some of our special education programs at Brook Knoll Elementary to the County Office of Education.

Unfortunately, because of unfunded mandates, we aren’t allowed to cut the most expensive services we provide.  So, the next areas we will have to cut will lead to more teacher layoffs, which will force us to increase class sizes and cut more programs.  Ultimately, this endangers the quality of education in Scotts Valley.

Scotts Valley schools earn the top student scores in the County.  Is this really true? 

Yes! Below are the latest CAASP test scores showing how our scores compare to County and State performance.  The y-axis shows what percentage of our students have Met or Exceeded State standards.

For the last four years, our students have significantly outperformed Santa Cruz County and California state averages in both Mathematics and English Language Arts.

Wait, you’re receiving the lowest funding in the County, and delivering the highest test scores?

That’s right.  Scotts Valley schools deliver the best educational bargain in the County, with the highest student test scores, and highest rate of students graduating and moving on to college (95%), but with the lowest per pupil funding.