school funding basics

School Funding Basics


Funding for students in California ranks 46th in the United States, and Irvine Unified’s funding is in the lowest quartile in California. So, even though the economy is improving, IUSD’s funding will not even get back to 2007-2008 levels until after 2020.

General Purpose Funds
General purpose funds are meant to be more or less equal per pupil throughout the state, regardless of district. (About ten percent of districts, however, can keep their share of property taxes allocated for education. These districts are called “basic aid.”)

Categorical Funds
Categorical funds are designated for specific programs tied to district demographics, socioeconomics or special needs. Districts with the most need receive more Categorical funding. While the goal of the legislation was laudable — to equalize education funding among economically diverse communities – its consequences have become problematic. Central authority has replaced local decision-making which produces inefficiencies. Scarce resources are put into Categorical programs to help under-performing districts while high-performing districts are effectively punished for their success.


Since the passage of Proposition 13, which reduced revenue available for education funding, most of the revenue for school funding comes from business and personal income taxes, sales taxes, and some special taxes, not property taxes.

Property Tax income
In fact, local property taxes amount to a little less than 23% of all school funding in the state. Because school funding comes from fluctuating sources of revenue, school budgeting is especially difficult. Though Proposition 98 sought to regulate funding, it has not alleviated a “feast or famine” budgeting scenario for most school districts. You can learn more about California school funding at

Lottery Income
Lottery funds account for approximately $132/pupil in K-12. Lottery funds don’t just go to K-12 schools; they support students in all areas of public education including Community Colleges, the University of California, the California State University system, Adult Education, Charter Schools and even the schools at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – Division of Juvenile Justice receive Lottery funds. Our students receive very little from the Lottery.

Parcel Tax Income
Academically, Irvine Unified School District ranks fifth in the state among other unified districts. Over time, the district has become one of the finest in the state, if not the nation, with a level of academics that rivals private schools. The other top unified school districts have created education foundations and passed parcel taxes to supplement state funding. Their parcel tax dollars go directly to their school district and can be used as the district chooses. Without a parcel tax in Irvine, your support of IPSF is even more critical. All the IPSF programs enrich your child’s educational experience, and they would be impossible without you.