States boosting K-12 funding across the US
Friday, June 16, 2017
K-12 funding has always been an area of debate, but perhaps never more so than this year. Within the first 100 days of President Donald Trump's administration, there has been a furor of concern over slashing education budgets across the country.
The fierce protests may have made a difference for several state budgets now showing a boost in funding. Though the boost is nominal in some cases, it is still better than having drastically-slashed budgets and huge deficits. K-12 public education offers advancement for the larger populace, and defunding it will severely affect the future of the nation.
Let's take a look at some of the education budget battles across the U.S.
One of the loudest protests came from the Democratic Party as soon as the Florida state education budget for 2017-18 was announced. It stated a boost in spending by $100 per student over the school year. The state already suffers from a deficit with per-pupil funding of $3,000 below the national average.
The increased funding came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the initial K-12 budget as insufficient. He asked for $215 million more in state money so that per-pupil level spending can increase by at least 1.4 percent or $100.
But it isn't just Democrats who are working hard to increase education budgets.
Assembly Republicans in Wisconsin have banded together to bring in more funds as part of their K-12 education plan. They have proposed an increase in K-12 resources, which will lead to over $12 million going to school districts.
The proposal allows an increase in property taxes in low-spending districts, which could cut down on school referendums. These districts would also receive more aid than they did before if the Senate and the Assembly work together to pass an education budget.
In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has approved a compromised K-12 budget, which along with repairs and improved facilities will also increase the per-pupil spending allocation. However, he did veto more than $20 million of spending for school bus purchases, county libraries and tech programs.
The per-pupil spending amount is still way below the state-recommended amount, but lawmakers nevertheless proposed an increase. For low-income and rural districts, even a small rise in funding is a good thing, and a means to contain the failing education standards.
McMaster has been known to state that money isn't always the answer, and the solution to better education lies in creative means like charter schools and magnet schools, among others. In that perspective, it is understandable why K-12 authorities in the state consider even a marginal funding to poor districts a good start.
Oregon lawmakers have advanced an $8.2 billion funding plan for K-12 schools over the next two years, an amount that is significantly above what Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has recommended. Even then, some lawmakers have criticized the bill as inadequate.
This 11.2 percent increase will be over $800 million, which will take into account school resources, tech spending, employee salaries as well as health and pension benefits. Districts who want to avoid teacher layoffs and reduced school days are clamoring for more, but for now even this bit of increase is good news.
California too has announced a boost in K-12 school funding, along with more money for in-state students attending the University of California and California State University systems.
The funding battle is raging hard and fast in Texas as well. In a special session of the Texas Legislature called by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, school finance is a key point as school choice vouchers and charter schools enter the debate.
Bills that can improve flexibility for teacher hiring and their pay are, of course, a priority. A House bill that proposed an increase of $1.5 billion into public schools died a quick death when Republicans tacked on a "private school choice" provision to it.
Despite the special legislation, decisions on school finance reform and school choice for special needs students are still up in the air. Meanwhile, several Texas school districts are planning to cut costs to avoid closure in the face of state funding cuts. Some districts have openly admitted that they need drastic cost-saving measures to avoid a complete shutdown.
The stalemate between the Texas House and Senate is adding to their stress.
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