Governors and Lawmakers Target Spending, School Mandates

By Sean Cavanagh — January 18, 2011 2 min read
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In inaugural speeches and budget proposals, governors and legislators have offered distinctly different views of K-12 spending. In some cases they’re vowing to protect school budgets, saying districts have suffered enough. In other states, they’re arguing that some cuts are necessary—and that schools can do just as well with less.

Last week we reported on California’s Jerry Brown, the Democrat, who, in returning to the governor’s mansion he occupied more than a quarter-century ago, proposed deep cuts in state government, but left schools’ budgets mostly untouched.

But in other states, the picture is more complicated.

+ In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican elected last fall, has offered a mixed bag for schools. He says his budget plan will provide enough money to end teacher furloughs and restore a full school year in Georgia districts. But district officials worry that it won’t be enough to make up for the coming “funding cliff,” when federal stimulus money runs out.

+ In Idaho, schools superintendent Tom Luna has unveiled a plan to increase the use of virtual education and technology, raise class sizes, and implement peformance-pay for teachers, changes that he says will reduce the state’s costs in the long run. The state would cut 770 teaching jobs over two-year period, much of it through attrition, though with enrollment growth, the net loss would be 320 jobs over five years, Luna’s staff estimates. If the state doesn’t make major changes to reduce costs, the only other option is deep cuts to K-12, or tax increases, the schools chief says. (A lot of folks these days, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan included, are arguing that schools can absorb higher class sizes if they’re led by talented teachers.)

“I am not talking about small tweaks here or there, but a comprehensive shift in how we deliver education,” Luna said in explaining the plan. “We can no longer rely on band-aids and tourniquets. We must hit the reset button we must create a customer-driven education system.”

+ And in Ohio, a Republican proposal seeks to strip away some of the main components of former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland’s education program, which the GOP sees as mandate-heavy. One of the mandates targeted by lawmakers requires districts to offer free, all-day kindergarten.

Over the next few months, we’ll see if governors and lawmakers can agree on which K-12 programs to cut, and which ones to protect. But many of the newly elected governors and lawmakers are Republican, and so they appear to be reading from the same script (or budget documents).

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.