Under Pressure: What Are the Rising Costs and Budget Challenges Facing California School Districts
Play • 38 min

How can it be that many California school districts are staring into the face of painful budget cuts, even as overall school funding has increased in recent years? Why isn’t more funding available in many districts for priorities such as hiring additional counselors, teachers and staff and adding programs for students? It’s an unusual situation one researcher called, “The Silent Recession” – and it’s the subject of this episode's adventure.  

Special guest John Gray, president and CEO of School Service of California, helps us explore why some districts are struggling just to keep up with their costs -- let alone build up investments in programs and staff that would ensure all their students have full access to opportunities and success. 

John describes how and why rising operational and health care costs, underfunded state pension programs, declining enrollment, and increased special education obligations – plus lower than needed proposed annual cost of living adjustments – are putting so much pressure on local district budgets.

Note: We recorded this interview prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created a devastating public health crisis and economic crisis.

Because salaries and benefits make up the majority of school districts' expenses, and those salaries and benefits are “collectively bargained” by labor unions and districts, John also explains the bargaining process – in particular, what happens when the two sides are initially unable to reach an agreement. John often serves as what’s called a “fact finder” in those situations where an impasse has been declared. 


 About John Gray

John contributes tremendous practical experience to the management consulting team at School Services of California (SSC) and serves SSC’s clients by conducting fiscal health analyses, providing collective bargaining assistance, preparing multiyear financial projections, performing school district efficiency studies, conducting internal control reviews, conducting district office organization reviews, and directing executive search services. John is a regular speaker at CASBO, ACSA and CSBA events and conferences. He is an instructor at the USC Rossier School Business Management Certificate program, the CSBA Masters in Governance program, and the CASBO Chief Business Official Certification courses. He also served as Chairman of the Board for EdSource. Prior to joining SSC, John served as the Director of Fiscal Services for the Fresno USD. He received his Bachelor of Science degree.


The California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO) is the premier resource for professional development and business best practices for California's school business leaders. CASBO is dedicated to promoting excellence and professionalism in all aspects of school business.

About your series guide

Paul Richman is a public education advocate and consultant. Contact him at EdfundingCA@gmail.com

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