2016 starts with nationwide call for budget hikes in K-12 schools
Friday, February 12, 2016
The new year started out with school districts campaigning for funds and state governments announcing budget hikes for the same. Nothing new in that except for the unprecedented manner in which multiple states are announcing these hikes simultaneously. Much has been said about budget cuts and administrative apathy in the last few years, but it seems 2016 will see a more positive stance from those involved.
A good example is Florida, where the Senate panel has proposed a $650 million increase in 2016-17 K-12 education funding. Republican Gov. Rick Scott's predominant method of relying on local property tax revenue is not supported by many in his party, who are more in favor of replacing that with state tax revenue. Nevertheless, it is still a step in the right direction.
According to data released by Kentucky researcher Richard Innes, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, Arizona and New Mexico receive the largest percentage of their funds from the federal government. The study provides detailed insight into how much each state spends per student, where the funds are coming from, and also the disparity between this spend and district performance.
Looking at the report, one might be inclined to agree with Scott's policy of relying on local taxes for local schools. With Congress just approving another major increase in education spending, federal funds have rightly become a huge bone of contention.
While there is a nationwide call for more funds, the important question is shouldn't there be a more managed process for the disbursement of these funds?
President Barack Obama's budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 comes with an open suggestion for all districts to incorporate computer science as an essential skill and a compulsory subject. A whopping budget of $4 billion for states and $100 million for districts is good news indeed, and even detractors don't see much fault in the president's aim to get young America coding. It is this kind of a focused goal that may help school districts deal with the cobwebs and manage their funds better.
As more states clamor an improved K-12 budget, it is imperative that there is a complete scrutiny of the allocation of these funds. This is not just to ensure proper and useful disbursement but also to ensure the updates are in sync with the new technologies.
Elsewhere in the news is Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who has proposed the biggest investment in K-12 education in the state's history. His goal is not just to equip students with the latest in knowledge and technology, but also to equip teachers with better tools and resources. Tennessee's $261 million proposal for K-12 education includes about $105 million for teacher salaries, which could account for a 5.6 increase in pay.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has also proposed more K-12 funds both in the current fiscal year and the next. It may start with an increase of $377 million and then an additional $200 million later in the session. Though his detractors are doubtful about how this approach can help the state with so many other issues pending, this is definitely an issue that needs immediate address.
While Wyoming schools are concerned over budget cuts, they have an unlikely ally in their midst. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has made headlines by berating the state legislative committee for their proposed $45 million K-12 budget cuts. In his goal to make the state a leading education hub, Mead not only rooted for $123 million in education funds but also for providing more money to local governments.
In an Arizona special election coming up on May 17, funding for K-12 schools in the state may undergo a radical shift. Districts here could see a permanent and increased annual distribution from state trust lands to fund education. This could result in disbursement of over $3.5 billion to the local schools in the next decade, without causing state taxes to increase.
These developments are ripple effects of the poor performance the nation has shown when pitted against its global counterparts in recent years. Increased funds and proper allocation is the key to improving these standards.
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