California spends billions rebuilding burned towns. The case for calling it quits: $21,000 in lost property
California is spending billions rebuilding burned towns. It’s not the kind of money the state or its neighbors like. And it’s not the kind of money voters or the courts want to see. On the other hand, the state has a lot of it, and with so much of it, it’s clear California can’t afford to go broke. The question is how to make sure that doesn’t happen.
What’s also clear is that it has to be done in a way that doesn’t hurt Californians and their communities. That means, in many ways, that the process California is following here is not about providing the greatest possible level of services to its residents, but about achieving a certain balance between state programs that provide basic services and those that provide the kind of special-needs care that Californians want.
California has a history of spending too much and doing too little. Since the late 1970s, the state has been spending about $200 billion on schools and building and renovations of schools. About $20 billion a year. In other words, about one-and-a-half times what the state is spending on the homeless.
For the state to spend this kind of money on schools without also spending it on the homeless — which would be to spend one-and-a-half times more than the state spends on kids — would be crazy. But, of course, that’s exactly what it’s doing.
California spent $18 billion on schools in fiscal 2013. That is, by almost every measure, the highest level of spending that the state has ever seen. By nearly every measure, the current level of spending is also the highest one, period, that California has ever seen. To the extent California spends so much, it spends more than the federal government does.
California is spending this stuff on schools only because it can’t afford not to. And it doesn’t really have a choice.
California’s schools are in a time crunch. They are not getting larger: The state has been reducing the size of its public schools at a rate of about 1,000 students in each school district every year for the last three decades. But the state can’t