Education Funding

‘I Can Make More Generals, But Horses Cost Money’

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 24, 2012 2 min read
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That quote is courtesy of Abraham Lincoln, who is very much sought after by school districts around the country right now, in a certain sense. With his words in mind, let’s check out a few states where education funding is a big issue in various ways.

It’s hard not to start in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who is still staring goggle-eyed at his state’s roughly $16 billion budget deficit, has proposed allowing school districts the option of cutting 15 days from the normal 180-day school calendar next year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. California school districts already have the option of eliminating up to five school days from their calendars, but Brown’s proposal would be in addition to that, leaving districts with 20 days they could cut in order to save money.

Brown floated a numerically-identical proposal last year, when he said that 20 school days, or basically a month of real time, could be cut from school districts in the 2011-12 school year without more tax revenue, the Sacramento Bee reported. Of the $6 billion cuts Brown is forecasting if voters don’t approve a tax increase in a November ballot initiative, about 92 percent of that would come out of K-12 schools, the Chronicle report stated. In 2010, cutting five days of school would have saved $1.1 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times. Even that dated information gives you an idea of the scale of California’s budget and its budget problem.

Meanwhile, Republicans in North Carolina are apparently mulling increases (in a roundabout way) for public school districts’ funding, although Democrats believe it’s a sinister attempt to avoid any discussion of increasing tax revenues to help education. Basically, the state’s schools are due to shovel a certain amount of money back to the state next year as “reversions” (reversions have been imposed by state lawmakers on schools since 2008).

As this resolution opposing the reversion from the Buncombe County school board shows, officials are concerned that the recent state budget cuts to schools, the loss of federal stimulus dollars, and the upcoming reversions for 2012-13 (for Buncombe, it would be $8.62 million) will cripple schools, and that reversions damage the funding commitment made by the state legislature. GOP members say they are considering a push to reduce the $503 million North Carolina’s 115 districts are scheduled to owe the state next year.

Finally, it’s a revered tradition to use creatively insulting language to describe an opponent’s budget ideas, but “illegal” isn’t a common word in those verbal attacks. Still, that’s how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed education budget is being described by the Education Law Center, based in Newark, which advocates for educational equality. Essentially, the study argues that Christie, a Republican, is stamping all over the statutory timeline for changes to school funding formulas by recommending changes to funding and not waiting for the Education Adequacy Report, which comes from the state commissioner and recommends any changes to the formulas. NorthJersey.com reported that the center also accused Christie of shortchanging disadvantaged students through his proposed funding scheme.

“In sum, the Governor’s FY13 school aid proposal should be rejected as an unauthorized and legally improper incursion by the Executive upon the other branches of government, in defiance of clear legislative and judicial mandates,” the center’s executive director, David Sciarra, wrote to legislators.

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


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