K-12 funding caught in budget crosshairs
- Many state legislatures faced fierce debate over budgets at the close of this fiscal year, and K-12 spending was wrapped up in many of these conflicts, according to Education Week.
- In Illinois, Gov. Bruce Ratner’s veto of a new state budget was overridden, with an additional $350 million going to schools, while Maine’s budget was passed after a three-day shutdown — and the National Conference of State Legislatures says at least 11 states, including Texas, are considering ways to revise their school funding formulas, while new formulas established after legal battles have taken effect in Washington and Kansas.
- State budgets have not recovered as robustly as the national economy since the Great Recession, and many states are cutting school budgets — though Georgia, Idaho and Tennessee are among those that have added to K-12 coffers.
It is important to note that state reductions in education funding may have an outsized effect if local communities and school districts are also continuing to suffer under economic turmoil. Without a significant tax base within a district, making ends meet can be difficult for schools, which are primarily funded via local property tax revenue in most cases. In distressed districts, states are often filling in where local revenue is lacking. NPR reported that in 2013, for example, North Carolina funded ⅔ of budgeting for schools in the state. Therefore, a loss of state funding will not be a loss felt evenly across schools and districts, but will disproportionately affect the schools that are already struggling with paltry property tax revenue.
The Every Student Succeeds Act includes mandates for states and districts to detail how individual schools are funded, which should shed some light upon funding disparities, and district and school administrators could work with parents and other community leaders to make them aware of how state funding cuts could adversely affect their district if it is primarily low-income. Additionally, as of last year, there were 13 separate states engaged in lawsuits pertaining to school funding, according to NPR. Support for increased legal pressure could potentially lead to a sea change if judges begin ruling that per-district budgeting must be more equitable.
- Education Week K-12 Funding Entangled in States' Budget Drama