Public School Enrollment Public School Funding Standardized Tests and Language Learning Graduation and Dropout Rates

Sustainability Goals

All children receive a high quality education that equips them with the tools and knowledge needed to pursue their dreams and participate productively in society. Students are reading proficiently in third grade, and high school and college graduation rates are high. School funding is equitable among districts serving all economic strata, and college is accessible and affordable for all.

Public School Enrollment

A good education provides children with the foundation they need to think critically and to take effective action to reach their goals and fulfill their potential. A strong education also passes on the democratic values of our society and encourages students to become productive members of their communities.

  • As the county population has grown, school enrollment has increased from 88,273 in 2004 to 95,620 in 2016.
  • From 2011 to 2015 San Mateo County’s average class size trended upwards to 25.4, higher than the state average of 23.9 (records past the 2014-2015 academic year are unavailable).
  • 7,208 students are enrolled in 16 charter schools throughout the county.


New Housing and Overcrowded Classrooms

Many cities and school districts have implemented developer fees and taxes to fund services and facilities for the growing number of students. The residents of Menlo Park passed a parcel tax in 2017 to provide funding to maintain class size and preserve educational programs. A school impact fee on new residential developments provides funding for the Redwood City School District and Sequoia Union School District. Half Moon Bay’s Impact-Developer fee applies to both residential and commercial development and funds construction and reconstruction of school facilities. San Mateo Union High School collects fees on construction in the City of San Mateo, Foster City, Hillsborough, Millbrae, San Bruno, and unincorporated Burlingame. The City of Millbrae instituted development fees for all building permits for new construction or additions over 500 sq. ft., to provide additional funding to the Elementary and High School Districts.


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Public School Funding

Public school funding in the state is based on a complex series of formulas that has led to vast disparities in per pupil expenditures by districts. In 2014, the state established a new Local Control Funding Formula to improve the funding balance (learn more below).

After several years of budget cuts for California public schools, a 2012 statewide tax initiative and an increase in capital gains tax have helped to restore funding levels. However, as of 2013 California’s average funding per student was below the national average.


Local Control Funding

In January 2014, the California Board of Education approved the Local Control Funding Formula proposed by Governor Brown and approved by the state legislature in 2013. The goal of the new plan is to make allocations more equitable and to channel additional funds to low-income students, foster children, and English learners. Under the plan, all districts receive base funding. Districts where disadvantaged students make up more than 40% of the enrollment will receive additional funding. “Concentration Grants” provide supplemental funding to districts comprised of over 55% underserved students.


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Standardized Tests and Language Learning

A 2008 report by the University of California, Berkeley Law School found that the two most significant factors determining children’s academic success were family income and English language ability. On standardized tests, the achievement gap between affluent and low-income students has risen 40% since the 1960s, with children on the bottom end of the income scale now lagging four years of school behind their peers at the upper end. Addressing the negative effects of growing income inequality and the needs of a large English Learners (EL) population is crucial for improving the long-term education outcomes for these students.Updated November 2017

  • Third grade language arts proficiency is one of the strongest predictors of future academic success as students who cannot read proficiently at this stage begin to fall behind in other subject areas.
  • Overall 46% of 11th graders in San Mateo County scored proficient or higher in mathematics, where as, across the state only 32% of 11th graders scored proficient or higher in mathematics.
  • 85% of students with a parent that attended graduate school or higher scored proficient or higher on standardized tests. Whereas, only 27% of students with parents that did not graduate from high school scored proficient or higher on standardized tests.

In San Mateo County, nearly one quarter of public school students are classified as English learners (EL), and across the state, EL students score much lower on California Standards Tests than other groups.

Updated November 2017

Languages of English Learners San Mateo County, 2016-2017

  • The number of English learners decreased slightly from the prior academic year in San Mateo County and throughout the state.
  • In the 2016-2017 Academic Year 23% of the 95,620 students enrolled in San Mateo County public schools were English learners. An additional 22% of students are “Fluent English Proficient” with English as a second language.
  • 4% of California’s public school students are English learners.
  • The majority of English learners are in the early grade levels – over 50% of the English learners in San Mateo County are in kindergarten through grade four.

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Graduation and Dropout Rates


  • San Mateo County’s graduation and dropout rates remained the same compared to the previous year, however the number of students that graduated with UC/CSU requirements met increased by 55%.


  • Although the county’s overall dropout rate is low, significant disparities exist by race/ethnicity.
  • The graduation rates for Filipino students increased by 3% in 2014-2015.

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Student Loan Debt

Although the rewards of obtaining a college degree are growing, so is the price tag for achieving one. According to a report by the PEW Charitable Trusts, in the early 1990s, less than half of U.S. college students graduated with outstanding student loan debt, now close to two-thirds graduate with debt. While more students are in debt, the amount owed is also growing. In 2010, the average outstanding college loan debt was $26,682, an increase of 52% from 2001 (adjusted for inflation, $2011). Rising tuition costs and student loan debt are increasingly making a college degree unaffordable, especially for students from low-income families.

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Education Data Partnership: CDE, EdSource, and FCMAT, retrieved from


  • UC/CSU Requirements: 12th-grade graduates who completed all the courses required for University of California (UC) and/or California State University (CSU) entrance with a grade of “C” or better.
  • Dropout: students in a 4-year cohort who left the 9-12 instructional system without a high school diploma, GED, or special education certificate of completion and did not remain enrolled after the end of the 4th year.
  • GED, Certificate, or Continued Enrollment: students who pass the General Education Development (GED) test, complete requirements necessary to obtain a special education certificate of completion, or remain enrolled in the 9-12 instructional system without a high school diploma.