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February 1, 2013

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 education funding unconstitutionally low, the Governor wants to further reduce state funds for schools.

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.

Related Stories:
Plaintiffs Win in Kansas, State Response May Create Crisis
Resistance to Equity is Deep, Long-standing and Bipartisan
New York School Funding Among Nation's Most Unfair
Learning from Education Litigation: Massachusetts
Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19

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