by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
It’s budget time! The House released its proposed budget last week and will vote on it this week. This week’s CommenTerry focuses on the K-12 education portion of the budget proposal.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education released its budget (pdf) recommendations last week. The bottom line is that the proposal would increase the education budget from $7.44 billion approved in 2011 to $7.69 billion. Much of this increase is paid for using nonrecurring (one-time) funds.
Indeed, the elephant in the room is the $226,983,163 in nonrecurring funds used to reduce the LEA adjustment or discretionary reduction (funds that school districts must return to the state). The House proposed an appropriation of $106,391,803 in recurring money to reduce the LEA adjustment, so those funds will continue to appear in subsequent budgets. But $227 million in nonrecurring funds is a different story. Legislators would have to pray for a robust economic recovery to fill that sizable hole in subsequent years. Or they would have to reduce the education budget by that amount next year. A hearty tax increase would be another option.
The idea of using one-time money to pay for permanent expenditures should sound familiar. Over the last three years, the state used temporary federal funds to support permanent public school employee positions. As expected, the federal money ran out this year, creating a sizable hole in the education budget. The House would make the same mistake by using one-time money for ongoing expenses. The only difference is that the temporary funds would come from the state, not federal, government.
As for specific expenditures, the House budget would set aside $535,000 for EVAAS, the Education Value-Added Assessment System. As usual, I believe that the continued investment in EVAAS, the state’s teacher evaluation system, is a good idea. Districts will need EVAAS if Republican leaders implement the kind of merit pay system proposed by Senate leaders.
The House also proposed $3.3 million in recurring "pass-through" funding for the Teaching Fellows program. Funding for the scholarship program was to expire this year, but a number of groups, led by the NC Public School Forum, have lobbied legislators to reinstate funding. Did legislators make this decision based on information about the effectiveness of the program, or did they simply cave to pressure from the education establishment to reinstate the program? I hope it is the former, but I suspect it is the latter.
I do not think there will be much objection to restoring $5 million for deaf and blind residential schools, nor should there be. On the other hand, I do not believe that funding for the Teacher Cadet program ($200,000) or the PTA’s Parental Involvement Initiative ($150,000) are sound uses of taxpayer funds. Do we have any evidence that these programs increase student achievement, teacher quality, or parental involvement?
Tarheel ChalleNGe, a dropout prevention program, already receives a recurring appropriation of $767,719. Is it necessary to add a $4 million, nonrecurring appropriation for a new facility? At first glance, I am not sure that it is. Then again, I do not know the condition of the facilities used for the program. Perhaps legislators should consider an increase in the recurring appropriation to cover the construction costs.
Legislators would add a $900,000, nonrecurring appropriation to Teach for America’s existing $900,000 recurring appropriation. Admittedly, I do not have any objection to TFA funding. Nevertheless, Sen. Berger proposed a well-designed program (in the Excellent Public Schools Act) that would replicate a TFA-like program statewide. For me, that is a better way to go.
The $200,000 appropriation for Governor’s Schools disregards the fact that supporters of the schools have been able to raise enough money to keep the program going. Why replace private donations with public funds?
Finally, the proposed House budget would eliminate the five instructional days added to the calendar last year. The Excellent Public Schools Act, the centerpiece of the Senate’s education reform effort, includes funding for the additional days. Certainly, the Senate will eliminate the House provision from their proposed budget, but anything can happen during budget negotiations between the chambers.
Obviously, the budget has a way to go. We’ll be there every step of the way.
The iPhone commercial starring John Malkovich (and Siri) is creepy.
Facts and Stats
Highlights of NCGA education budget recommendations:
I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].
Education Acronym of the Week
TFA — Teach for America
Quote of the Week
"The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education released its budget this week, and I applaud members for their efforts to help public schools. Even without new revenue sources, the subcommittee provided significant support to help meet the most critical needs of public schools. I encourage the full Appropriations committee to favorably consider the subcommittee’s education budget."
– State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson’s statement on the proposed House education budget
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