State FundingLeonard Presberg
During this legislative session (one that kicks off an election year) we’re hearing a lot of news coming out of our state government regarding education.
The first thing you might have heard about is the debacle regarding our teacher’s and staff’s health insurance. The State previously had limited options and increased copays (along with increasing what we as a system must pay for each employee.)
Based on the outcry from teachers (and an over 12,000 member Facebook group) the Governor and State Department of Community Health retroactively changed the plan, decreased copays and have promised more choices in the future.
The other big news is the Governor’s proposed budget. In it he trumpets adding $547 million “to restore instructional days, eliminate teacher furloughs and increase teacher salaries.”
It turns out $547 million is a little misleading in the face of the billions of dollars of “austerity” cuts of the past decade. About $213 million (about 40%) covers student enrollment growth, standard increases in teacher salaries based on gains in experience and training, increases in retirement costs and other routine increases.
That only leaves $314 million left as an “increase.” The truth is that that this “increase” really just lowers the amount of austerity cuts. It’s not really an increase to our funding at all – it’s just a smaller cut in the expected state funding for our schools than we had this year.
Our “big education budget increase” actually underfunds our own funding formula for a Quality Basic Education by $750 million statewide.
In Fayette we have lost over $100 million dollars in state funding so far. We have dealt with this through layoffs, bigger class sizes, and closed schools. Unlike other systems, we were able to get rid of our furlough days and at least pay teachers their full salary. Unlike other systems, we still have art and music programs and foreign languages and career tech classes. Other districts have fewer days, fewer classes and bigger classes.
As these austerity cuts continue we must face hard choices. Our teachers deserve more. Our bus drivers deserve more. We need smaller classes. More technology. More professional development. More parapros. More counselors. Etc. Etc. Etc.
This is an election year. Remember that our state elected officials have a great deal of influence on what we can do as a local school system. We must locally compensate for their decreased funding. We must comply with their new rules and mandates.
We continue to try to do more with less. But I urge you to make sure your state officials know that public school is not the place to spend less.
They need to know that you care about public education, that you want our schools to be fully funded, and that you will vote accordingly. Call them. Write them. Make sure they know what is important.
These are our children. Make sure our elected officials don’t just pay them lip service but actually vote in their best interest.
FULL NEWSLETTER including School Board Update (7 Period Day, CCA, Capital Projects):