Public secondary education consists of high schools that teach elective courses in trades, languages, and liberal arts with tracks for gifted, college-bound and industrial arts students. California's public educational system is supported by a unique constitutional amendment that requires a minimum annual funding level for grades K-14 (kindergarten through community college) which grows with the economy and student enrollment figures.

California had over 6.2 million school students in the 2005–06 school year. Funding and staffing levels in California schools lag behind other states. In expenditure per pupil, California ranked 29th of the 51 states (including the District of Columbia) in 2005–06. In teaching staff expenditure per pupil, California ranked 49th of 51. In overall teacher-pupil ratio, California was also 49th, with 21 students per teacher. Only Arizona and Utah were poorer.

California's public postsecondary education offers a unique three tiered system:

• The preeminent research university system in the state is the University of California (UC) which employs more Nobel Prize laureates than any other institution in the world[citation needed], and is considered one of the world's finest public university systems. There are ten general UC campuses, and a number of specialized campuses in the UC system.

• The California State University (CSU) system has almost 450,000 students, making it the largest university system in the United States. It is intended to accept the top one-third (1/3) of high school students. The 23 CSU schools are primarily intended for undergraduate education.

• The California Community Colleges system provides lower division coursework as well as basic skills and workforce training. It is the largest network of higher education in the US, composed of
110 colleges serving a student population of over 2.6 million.

California is also home to such notable private universities as Stanford University, the University of Southern California (USC), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the Claremont Colleges (including Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College). California has hundreds of other private colleges and universities, including many religious and special-purpose institutions.

Luciano Mende

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