by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education released their budget recommendations this morning. The bottom line is that the proposal would increase the education budget from $7,444,122,100 approved in 2011 to $7,692,234,560. 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). They propose an appropriation of $106,391,803 in recurring money to reduce the LEA adjustment, so those funds will continue to appear in subsequent budgets. Beacuse the $227 million is nonrecurring, legislators would have to pray for a robust economic recovery to fill the hole in subsequent years. Or they would have to reduce the education budget by that amount next year and beyond.
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 pay for permanent public school employee positions. The federal money ran out this year, creating a sizable hole in the education budget. The state would make the same mistake twice. The only difference is that the temporary funds would come from the state, not federal, government.
As usual, I believe that the continued investment in EVAAS, the state’s value-added [teacher] assessment system is a good idea. Districts will need EVAAS if Republican leaders implement a merit pay system.
I am a bit confused by the decision to resume recurring pass-through funding to the Teaching Fellows program. Did legislators make this decision based on information about the effectiveness of the program, or did they simply cave to the pressure to reinstate the program? I hope it is the former, but I suspect it is the latter.
I do not believe that funding for the Teacher Cadet program ($200,000) or the PTA’s Parental Involvement Initiative ($150,000) is a sound use of funds. Do we have any evidence that these programs increase student achievement, teacher quality, or parental involvement?
Tarheel ChalleNGe 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. But, then again, I do not know the condition of the facilities used for the program. I’ll reserve judgment until I receive more information.
Although I do not have any objection to Teach for America funding, I am not sure why legislators would add a $900,000, nonrecurring appropriation to TFA’s existing $900,000 recurring appropriation. After all, TFA teachers sign up to teach for two years, so it is not wise to use nonrecurring funds to pay for TFA positions. 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.
I do not think there will be much objection to restoring $5 million for deaf and blind residential schools, nor should there be.
The $200,000 appropriation for Governor’s Schools ignores 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?