SAN FRANCISCO -- Researchers are questioning how California's schools have managed the more than 5.5 million acres that the federal government granted to the state when it joined the union, according the San Francisco Chronicle.
Analysts at Utah State University found most of the land given to the California school trust has been sold off, mismanaged or neglected, the newspaper reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/YscYo3 ).
A report by the university's Center for the School of the Future, found that of the original land, less than 500,000 acres remain.
Still, California has done better with its lands than nearly two dozen states that have nothing left of their school land trust, according to the report.
"While we point sometimes at California -- and to be honest there is, on the part of some people, snickering -- California at least has some lands left," said Richard West, executive director of the center and author of the report.
The land was given in trust by Congress when California joined the union to support the education of children, the Chronicle reported.
As in other states, the land sold off in California was gone before the start of the 20th century.
"In the old days, they sold off everything anybody wanted," said Jim Porter, public land management specialist in the California State Lands Commission.
The remaining land produces about $6 million in royalties and revenue each year, with all the proceeds going to the state teachers' pension fund, the report said.
A vast majority of that revenue is generated from geothermal leases at the Geysers along the border of Sonoma and Lake counties. Oil, gold and other minerals also generate some revenue.
West argues education officials should be part of the conversation about how to use the school trust, which is overseen by the State Lands Commission. The commission is composed of the lieutenant governor, state controller and finance director.
In an odd twist, California is still owed about 51,000 acres from the federal government for the land trust because some of the initial parcels designated for education support already were occupied.
The State Lands Commission is working with other states to pursue legislation that would push federal officials to turn over the remaining land to California and any other states owed acreage.
In the meantime, the commission wants to expand solar and wind efforts, which could increase revenue for the school land trust, Porter said.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com