As the slow economic recovery continues to raise revenues for the States,
some Governors are asking their Legislatures to begin restoring funding to
address major cuts to public education over the last three or four years. State
revenues are up for the 8th quarter in a row, but remain below pre-recession
levels in many states.
Governors Brown in California and Patrick in Massachusetts propose more resources
for schools, while Governors Brownback in Kansas and Cuomo in New York are
embracing continued underfunding of K-12 education.
In California, Governor Brown correctly described the state's school funding
system as "overly complex ... and deeply inequitable." He proposes a simplified
funding system that he says would maximize local control and distribute supplemental
funds "to school districts based on the real world problems they face," such
as educating California's two million children living in poverty and three
million children learning English.
In Massachusetts, Governor Patrick praised past educational efforts that he
believes led the Commonwealth to consistently high achievement, and he wants
to move to full funding of K-12 education. The increases would begin with $550
million for 2013-14 and reach nearly $1 billion annually after a four-year
phase in. The Governor labeled this an "investment package" that's "about creating
opportunity and economic growth" across the Commonwealth and addressing the
needs of the state's "24 Gateway cities."
Governor Patrick also proposes to move the state's high quality preschool
program towards universal access. High quality preschool education is a top
priority for some other governors, too, as they deliver their budget addresses
this year, including Governors Shumlin of Vermont, Snyder of Michigan, and
Abercrombie of Hawai'i.'
Unfortunately, some Governors are striking much more negative tones. In Kansas,
Governor Brownback pushed through major tax cuts and paid for them, in large
measure, by slashing school funding. Although a Kansas court, in January, found
unconstitutionally low, the Governor wants to further reduce state funds
In New York, major cuts created a current year state funding shortfall of
more than $7.7 billion, which also violates the state's constitutional duty
to provide its children a "sound basic education." Governor Cuomo's Executive
Budget proposal for 2013-14 includes a slight increase in state foundation
aid and, as a result, would result in continuing cuts to core educational programs
and services across the state.
In testimony on the proposed Executive Budget, David Sciarra of the Campaign
for Fiscal Equity and the Education
Law Center said, "We cannot hope to move our students forward by consistently
depriving them of the fundamental tools they need to learn. It is therefore incumbent
upon the Legislature, to revive its
constitutional commitment to our children." And, the New York State Association
of Small City School Districts testified that "State
education funding has been going in the wrong direction, leaving the
poorest schools and children behind. Small city children and tax payers desperately
need help to stop the steady erosion in education resources ... ."
In the next few weeks, as more Governors present their budget proposals, it
bears watching to see if they call for restoring the last several years' cuts
to K-12 education and if they propose investing in high quality preschool.