As economy improves, K-12 funding expansions top state priorities
Friday, July 17, 2015
K-12 public education is funded by federal, state and local governments in the United States. While the federal government contributes about 10 percent to the total amount, local taxes make up for the bulk of the fund, about 40-50 percent.
The annual funding levels vary according to school districts and states. On an average, it ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 for students with disabilities and between $4,000 and $10,000 for others.
The Great Recession resulted in significant budget cuts across the country, forcing schools to come up with more individual funding programs to expand their own resources. However, as the economy is bouncing back, administrators, parents and teachers alike have run out of patience and are pushing for aggressive funding expansion.
Topping the list is the state of Nevada, which just announced strategic funding for education in the state. A significant portion of their new tax revenues will be pumped into various K-12 education programs. Apart from an increase in resources, the expanded funding will also look into serious issues like allocating funds to boost literacy levels in elementary schools and prevent students from being held back for lack of reading proficiency.
The creation of a 24-hour anti-bullying hotline and a website for submitting complaints is also on the agenda. Extra funding will also be given for the Zoom School program, which provides additional resources to schools which have higher numbers of English language learners, across all K-12 levels.
Another noteworthy move is $25 million to combat the teacher shortage that the state is going through. Educational resources can only be utilized properly when there are adequate and great teachers to help students reach their potential.
School administrations in Illinois are hoping to receive significant monetary infusions before the new school year begins in the fall. According to one district superintendent, both Republicans and Democrats seem to be interested in putting more money into public education.
Washington state lawmakers have proposed a substantial $1.3 billion increase for K-12 public school education. This will include a lot of reforms, from increase in teacher and education resources to reducing class sizes and expanding full-day kindergarten in the state.
Indiana catapulted into the news with its surprise last-minute funding for charter schools, but it has ignited more speculation than cheers. The $50 million loan program and additional $500 per student in annual state funding is supposed to close the funding gap between charters and regular public schools. Close on the heels of $91 million debt forgiveness for these charter schools, most feel that Gov. Mike Pence is being too generous with the charter schools and allocating more money to them.
On the other end of the spectrum is Iowa, which has reported no expansion whatsoever. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed extra funding and is now facing the joint efforts of school districts and parents who are all for getting it back on track.
It came as a shock for many when Branstad vetoed the $55.7 million in additional K-12 funding, which had already received legislative approval for the 2015-16 academic year. Educators and parents across the state are condemning the move and questioning the priority level for education in the state. According to Branstad, this one-time infusion will just be a 1.25 percent increase and will do nothing to help the schools in the long term.
Funding is just one spoke in the large wheel of education, albeit an important one. Also needed is a deeper focus from administrations to reshape the federal role in America's public schools. The latest efforts by Congress are being concentrated on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) before more funding issues can be discussed.
This will include steps like retaining annual testing, expanding charter schools, streamlining federal programs and requirements, and increasing transparency between schools and parents, so students can receive a more effective education. While it does mean day-to-day interference in state and district matters, more federal participation will determine whether schools are spending tax dollars wisely and exercising better accountability.
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