Cost and Financing

Spending more on education won’t necessarily result in better student achievement.

That was a message from Ulrich Boser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, who spoke at the Education Policy Task Force Friday morning. A study from the center looked at productivity in schools across the country.

Policymakers, parents and stakeholders are demanding improvements in public education by raising metrics of academic success, pushing for progress in low performing schools, and raising the bar on teacher and leader effectiveness. Differences in funding formulas, allocations and revenue have created disparate funding across the states. These variations in spending per student impact the educational opportunities provided as states ramp up their educational reform. This session highlighted various options states can implement to address the critical budget deficits.

On Monday, President Barack Obama officially unveiled his budget for 2013.  As he spoke from Northern Virginia Community College, Obama highlighted the more than $65 billion in education funding focused on resources dedicated to transforming K-12 and postsecondary education to ensure students have the skills and knowledge to succeed in the future.

According to a new report in the New York Times, more of our nation’s children are beginning to bear the burden of this recession. The Times reports that the number of students receiving free or subsidized school lunches has jumped 17% since 2007. To make this number more palpable, 17% equates to over three million children, jumping from 18 million students to 21 million students receiving reduced lunches in just four years. Many states are reporting more than half of their 4thgrade school children are eligible for government funded food stipends. In both New Mexico and Mississippi, more than 70% of students now qualify for free school lunches.

 

According to White House data recently requested by The Council of State Governments, over $66 billion worth of funds1 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act remain unspent.  While nearly 85 percent of stimulus dollars have been paid out and almost all of the remaining funds have been obligated for projects, the 15 percent left to be spent adds up to a hefty sum.  And as states continue to feel the fiscal and economic effects of the Great Recession, $66 billion could go a long way in helping states get on the road to recovery.

President Obama’s 155-page jobs proposal landed on Capitol Hill this week and both parties are rallying their troops for a partisan fight.  Prospects for adoption remain low and support among state leaders will likely divide along party lines.  However, the bill does contain $30 billion in state fiscal relief, in the form of the Teacher Stabilization Fund, which if enacted would have a direct impact on state budget decisions throughout the country.

The President fired a shot across the bow of Congress last night with his $450 billion proposal to address the jobs crisis.  In a reprise of the Recovery Act of 2009 (the “stimulus”), the majority of new spending in the proposal would flow through state and local government with over $110 billion devoted to infrastructure and education alone.  However, state budget planners need not revise their mid-year predictions just yet as the bill will face a hurricane-force headwind as soon as it hits the House of Representatives next week. 

Surprising many in the state, state Senator Rollie Heath delivered more than 142,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office in support of a ballot initiative that would increase taxes to raise over $3 billion for education.  Sen. Heath, who authored the initiative, announced the petition drive in May, and claims to have personally obtained more than 1,000 signatures.

In many states and local school districts, education leaders have taken the mantra, “time is money,” literally. The New York Times reports in an effort to cut costs, thousands of school districts across the nation are gutting summer-school programs, condensing the school calendar into four-day weeks or otherwise shortening the school calendar, even though virtually everyone involved in education agrees that American students need more instruction time.

Business and industry have always relied on policies and programs that ensure young people receive a high-quality education. That relationship has become symbiotic as state and local school officials become increasingly dependent on outside funding sources. In return, corporate America expects improved K-12 and postsecondary schools to provide a better educated and trained workforce.

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