Budget Deal Changes Nothing
The governor and legislative leaders were proud to announce on Friday that they had reached a tentative budget deal for the 2014-15 fiscal year (FY15). Rob Miller had a good summary earlier on his blog.
On Friday, we learned that legislative leaders had reached a tentative budget agreement with the Governor’s office. Based on the figures released, total appropriations for FY2015 will be about $7.121 billion.
This includes an increase of about $80 million for common education—$40 million of which will go to the funding formula and the rest used to offset increases in employee Flexible Benefits Allowances (FBA). Additional appropriations of about $35 million are also in place for Ad Valorem (property tax) reimbursements.
For historical perspective, remember that appropriations for common education in the FY2010 budget totaled $2.572 billion, or 36.4% of the $7.063 billion state budget. With the new budget deal, common education will get approximately $2.48 billion from a budget pie of $7.121 billion, or about 34.8%. Note that even with the increased appropriations, state funding for common education in FY2015 will continue to lag about $100 million behind FY2010 figures, with at least 35,000 additional students.
It seems that I have to write something similar every year, but the added funding is a pittance compared to what we’ve lost. Here’s what I wrote last year at about this time.
From FY09 to FY14, the funding formula specifically has lost over $198 million. Restoring this amount would fund roughly 3,366 teaching positions. Unfortunately, even if all $74 million in new common education funding went into the formula, it would barely make a dent. That’s why everybody from administrators to teachers to school board members to parents is frustrated that the allocation includes a mere $21 million for the formula.
We’re pretty much in the same place now. Adding $80 million back to the common education budget helps, even if only half will go back into the formula. I haven’t seen a spreadsheet showing exact figures yet, but based on what the SDE released last May, and adding $40 million into the formula, the seven year trend looks like this.
|Fiscal Year||Funding through the Formula||Students|
The second column above shows that we schools have still not recovered from pre-recession levels. While formula funding will be at a five-year high, student enrollment will be higher (using average yearly growth for the sake of a projection) too, to the count of an additional 46,500 students.
Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator for Consumer Price Index, we can see that the funding situation is even more severe than what these numbers show. A dollar in 2014 has about 91 cents buying power, in 2008 dollars. Here’s another way to look at where these cuts have left us.
|Fiscal Year||Per Pupil Formula Funding||Per Pupil Funding in 2008 Dollars|
School districts, since 2008, have lost about 20 percent of their buying power. I would argue that the cost of textbooks, technology, and transportation has increased at an even greater rate than this. Meanwhile, mandates and class sizes keep rising. As I’ve said on many occasions, those who favor school choice seem hell-bent on creating a public school system that none of us would select. Art, music, and PE in the elementary schools continue to lose time. Computer labs are more utilized than ever, but usually for the test prep program du jour, rather than the research and code writing that our tenuous state standards require.
High school students, more than ever, have fewer electives available to them. Considering all the rhetoric claiming that we need to make students both college and career ready, we sure have made the path for students to take Career Tech classes in high school harder with all of the different graduation requirements that the state has added. At all levels, testing drives hiring, instruction, spending, and decision-making. It should be what’s best for children that drives our decisions.
If the state of Oklahoma wants schools to be test-prep factories devoid of the innovation and relationship-building skills that our best teachers have always carried into the classroom, this is the blueprint for doing so. The ALEC term for this is starving the beast. That’s what the numbers show is happening. Rob astutely placed the “new” $80 million in the context of the overall state budget.
The state government is paying a smaller percentage of the cost of public education than at any time in recent memory. Yet they’re increasingly taking local control away from schools. While the $80 million is better than nothing, all it really does is give politicians cover during an election year. I refuse to be overjoyed.