Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Senate K-12 budget gives flexibility, pushes reform

Slight edge on dollar amount, but less into basic education; related bills controversial

In the closing days of the first special session for 2013, the Senate considered but rejected the House operating budget and instead passed a version similar to what senators passed in the general session, at least as far as K-12 spending is concerned:  Increased allocation for materials, supplies and operating costs and for student transportation, and then targeted investments to promote student achievement. The Senate also invests in full-day kindergarten in high poverty schools, but at a lower rate than the House proposes.

Senators then passed a controversial “mutual consent” bill on teacher placement (SB 5242), and another controversial bill that limits future spending in non-education areas (SB 5895). Both bills include referendums to the voters.  Other proposals the Senate wants to see passed include worker compensation and payday loans.

There was no mention of increased instructional time in middle and high school or other funding to implement graduation requirements aligned with career and college readiness. The budget does include a study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission on how school districts use school days, including definitions and allocation of instructional and non-instructional time. The report would be due December 1, 2014.

There was no investment in K-3 class-size reduction, and while the budget bill references career guidance and family engagement, it does not increase funding for counselors or family engagement coordinators.

HOW TOTALS COMPARE: There is a slightly larger K-12 investment overall, with the Senate putting $17.1 billion into public schools (total budget $66 billion), while the House puts $16.9 billion into public schools (total budget $67 billion). The increase, however, is to supplemental non-basic education spending. This fiscal report breaks it down for you. (Note, if you click on “public schools” you will get a categorical breakdown).

Different strategies

House: Gives a bit more for all: The House puts more of its K-12 allocations into the program of basic education. All schools get this funding. Legally, it is difficult to cut this spending, and increases to it are protected, long-term commitments. Increases to basic education funding also translate to more funding for special education and a bigger levy base – meaning districts can ask for a bit more locally and districts who qualify can get more levy equalization money.

Senate: Differentiates for student need: The Senate puts more into the Learning Assistance Program for low-income students (with accompanying requirements that it be evidence-based) and the Senate has $5 million designated for innovation grants around compensation (incentives for hard-to-fill subjects and assignments to challenging schools). Under this scenario all schools get a bit less, but more money is targeted at kids and schools with higher need.

From a district and school standpoint, the House version lets them know they can all count on a bit more every budget cycle. The Senate version holds back some on future guarantees and differentiates based on need. It doesn't advance major components of basic education funding reform, but gives districts more flexibility in the next two years. (No requirements to decrease class size or increase instructional time.)

Going forward, the Senate proposes to fund K-12 operating costs by transferring revenue from taxes and fees that currently support public works; transferring in funds that currently support school construction; and transferring funds that would have gone to teacher cost of living raises. The Senate also proposes to cap non-educational spending (part of SB 5895). See Appendix D, pages 35-36, of the highlights document.

Supplemental tax and policy bills

On Monday and Tuesday, the Senate Ways and Means committee also considered various changes to taxes and fees and a new omnibus bill in support of student outcomes. None passed out of chamber, but the bills shed light on where the Senate stands on certain issues.

Bills considered this week in Ways and Means that touch on K-12 include:

5871/ SALE TAX: Converts non-resident sales tax exemption into a remittance program. (House has proposed ending this tax and putting the money into K-12 and higher education)

5872/ ESTATE TAX:  Provides a technical fix but also scales back the tax. This tax funds K-12 and access to higher education. 

5946/ STRENGTHENING EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES: Advances early literacy; evidence-based Learning Assistance Program; discipline; educator support; professional development.

Highlights of Senate K-12 spending:

Materials, supplies and operating costs (program of basic education)
  • $83.65 for the 2013-14 school year
  • $500.42 for the 2014-15 school year.
The enhanced MSOC allocation for the 2014-15 school year represents full funding of school districts' reported actual costs for the 2011-12 school year, adjusted for  inflation.
Learning assistance funds nearly doubled (program of basic education)
  • $240.8 million
Allocations based on poverty factors; tied to evidence-based criteria
Pupil transportation (program of basic education)
  • $197.5 million
Full funding for the new formula for student transportation, beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
Gradual phase-in for voluntary full-day kindergarten (program of basic education)
  • $41.1 million to increase full-day kindergarten funding from 22 percent of kindergartners to 30 percent in the 2013-14 school year and 35 percent in the 2014-15 school year.
Basic education requires 100 percent by 2017-18 school year.
School turnaround/SB 5329 transforming persistently failing schools (supplemental/non basic education)
  • $143,000 for fiscal year 2014
  • $10,138,000 for fiscal year 2015
Teacher evaluation training (supplemental/non basic education)
  • $10.2 million to enhance existing funding
Academic support for English language learner students (supplemental/non basic education)
  • $5.7 million, beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
Transitional bilingual education is part of the program of basic education. This is additional money to assist students as they transition into the general education program.
Compensation reform (supplemental/non basic education)
  • $5 million for Strategic Innovation Grants

To help implement compensation systems that are evidence-based and research-based and that provide incentives for hard-to-fill subject areas and assignments to challenging schools.

Sine Die

The special session concluded Tuesday with no agreement on either a budget bill or related fiscal and policy bills. The governor called for a second special session to start immediately. If a budget is not passed by the end of the fiscal year (June 30), state government could shut down.

See related posts:
House scales back K-12 spending (6/7/2013)
Fund education before reducing revenue (5/30/2013)
Just in time learning: Basic Ed 101 (4/29/2013)
House plan has edge (4/25/2013)

1 comment:

  1. Note: This post was updated June 12 to include the information from Appendix D, the Senate's proposal to bring in revenue for K-12. - Ramona Hattendorf, WSPTA government relations coordinator