To the Editor:
Thank you so much for nationally surveying a sample of school principals and district-level administrators who manage school finance, and for stressing this critically important matter (“We Asked About School Finance. What Did Districts Say?,” Sept. 24, 2019). Education Week’s survey flushed out the key school finance questions, such as rising expenses affecting a district’s budget the most, major funding challenges in districts, and top areas where funding is needed most, among others.
The Pew Charitable Trusts’ June 4 article, “‘Lost Decade’ Casts a Post-Recession Shadow on State Finances,” reported that total state tax revenues for most states recovered nearly six years ago from losses in the 2008 downturn. However, in 2016, K-12 funding remained below the prerecession level in 29 states.
According to the article, nine states have increased funding only 0-5 percent over 2008; five states, 6-10 percent; and eight states, more than 11 percent. As my colleagues know, this current state funding position by legislators is ridiculous in light of the fact that states have more fiscal resources to apply to primary and secondary education now than they had prior to 2008. We must advocate loudly for changes.
In the EdWeek survey, health care was one of the top five responses to the question, “Which of these is having a major impact on rising per-pupil expenses in your school district?” Health insurance costs can be contained with cooperative efforts by the school administration, school board, and staff. A number of solutions exist to contain health insurance costs, including studying the district’s insurance-utilization data with the assistance of the third-party administrator and devising provisions for district and/or employee cost savings.
Although many school finance issues rest with elected officials providing more funding, local school officials can do their part in addressing funding challenges.
Franciscan University of Steubenville
A version of this article appeared in the October 23, 2019 edition of Education Week as Worthy School Finance Survey