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Friday News Roundup: Week of September 3-7

September 7, 2012

Georgia tech schools raise tuition 13 percent

Connecticut learns price of universal preschool: $264 million

Snyder: Michigan will appeal ruling striking down 3 percent retirement deduction for teachers

Luna seeks 5 percent more for Idaho schools

Georgia tech schools raise tuition 13 percent
The board that governs Georgia’s 25 public technical colleges voted this week to increase tuition from $75 to $85 per credit hour next semester, a 13 percent increase. The tuition increase will take effect for the spring semester, which begins in January. The board is also instituting a $50 “institutional fee” for the spring semester and an additional $50 fee per online course beginning in the fall 2013 semester. The tuition hike comes even as the state’s HOPE grant program, funded by the Georgia state lottery and which provides qualifying in-state students with grants of $60.75 per credit hour, faces a shortfall this year. The legislature passed a measure last year requiring that grant recipients maintain a 3.0 grade point average, and the rest of the shortfall will be made up by decreasing the dollar amount of awards. Currently, about 75 percent of students in the state’s technical college system receive HOPE grants, which are separate from the four-year college and universities’ HOPE scholarship program. More here…

Connecticut learns price of universal preschool: $264 million
It is unclear whether Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is wavering in his support for high-quality preschool for children from low-income families after he saw the price tag this week. Providing universal access in the 19 poorest school districts in the state, according to new cost estimates, would cost $43.8 million annually, plus $220.6 million for construction of new classrooms. That amount would serve nearly 5,000 3- and 4-year olds who can’t attend preschool currently because the state-funded programs are full.  A move by the legislature last year provided $6.8 million more for preschool, which translates to 1,000 additional spots for preschoolers in the current school year. However, the state’s education commissioner did not say whether the administration planned to ask for any additional funding in the next fiscal year. More here…

Snyder: Michigan will appeal ruling striking down 3 percent retirement deduction for teachers
In a Michigan Court of Appeals decision handed down last month, the court said that a 2010 Michigan state law that cut school employees’ pay by 3 percent violated state and federal laws, and was unconstitutional. The pay cut was intended to pay for post-retirement health care for current employees. Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) announced this week, while at a bill-signing for a separate law that would increase public school employees and retirees’ health care contributions, that the state planned to appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court. If upheld, the state will be required to refund employees about $508 million. The funds are currently being held in an escrow fund. More here…

Luna seeks 5 percent more for Idaho schools
Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna is requesting 5 percent more for K-12 public schools in the fiscal year 2014 budget. Most of the new funds in his budget would go to teacher salaries and benefits; he plans to increase teacher salaries by about 5 percent, although much of the salary increase would instead be funded through the state’s pay-for-performance system. (The pay-for-performance plan is on November’s ballot for repeal, and its future remains uncertain.) Luna’s budget includes plans to un-freeze a previously-frozen pay step based on experience, as well as to restore cuts to base salaries. The budget proposal also includes funding to help high school students graduate early and earn college credits, and additional funds for remediation and reading and math programs. Governor Butch Otter (R-ID) will review Luna’s and other agencies’ proposals before he composes a final budget request to send to the legislature. More here…

Race to the Top-District Competition Draws Nearly 900 Applications

September 7, 2012

Nearly 900 local educational agencies (LEAs) – 893, to be exact – recently notified the Department of Education of their intent to apply for the Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) competition. RTT-D is the newest incarnation of the Race to the Top franchise, which was previously only available to states. It now allows school districts to compete for a chunk of the $383 million in federal money appropriated in 2012 based on their plans to personalize students’ education. That doesn’t mean all of those applicants will necessarily complete a full bid for the grants, or that other districts won’t jump in later this year. But it is a strong showing of district-level support for the Department’s latest competition.

We examined the summary and list of applicants the Department released last week and found that a surprisingly large number of districts expressed interest in applying for the grants. Districts from 48 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, submitted applications. (North Dakota and Wyoming were the only holdouts.) Sixty-two districts in Texas, a state that refused on principle to participate in earlier Race to the Top competitions, applied, an indication that the Department’s efforts to provide opportunities to districts in such states may pay off.

The dozen largest districts (by enrollment) in the country all stated that they plan to apply, including New York City Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Chicago Public Schools. Among the other applicants were some of the least-stable school districts in the country. Kansas City Public Schools in Missouri, a district that lost its accreditation last year, signaled that it will apply for two grants (though LEAs cannot sign on to more than one application, the intents to apply are for grants of two sizes, suggesting perhaps the district hasn’t decided yet what its plan will look like). And the embattled Chester Upland School District, a “financially distressed” district in Pennsylvania that nearly shut down last year when it ran out of money, will also apply for one.

 A quick read of the list shows that at least 40 of the potential applicants are charter school districts, and another two dozen are non-profit organizations and foundations likely working with school districts on their applications. And ten of the LEAs planning to apply stated that they would be looking for at least two grants, though they will ultimately be eligible to submit only one application.

The RTT-D eligibility criteria say that applicants must serve at least 2,000 students, and have no less than 40 percent of students eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program.  By our count, fewer than 3,000 traditional public school districts (excluding charters, for which data are not collected by the Federal Education Budget Project) meet those requirements on their own.

However, the Department provided another avenue for smaller districts. A consortium of ten or more school districts is exempt from the 2,000 student minimum as long as 75 percent of the students in each district will participate in the program (consortia can include any number of school districts if they have more than 2,000 students total). Of the 893 districts that signaled intent, more than 250 will apply as the lead of a consortium. As a result, it is impossible to know how many districts will actually participate in the RTT-D competition at this point.

Additionally, to even be considered for the competition, districts and consortia will have to meet several more requirements. Those include implementing teacher, principal, and superintendent evaluation systems by the 2015 school year (earlier proposals to include a school board evaluation system were scrubbed in the final notice); utilizing college- and career-ready (eg. Common Core) standards or graduation requirements; and building out district-wide data systems that match teachers and students from pre-K through high school and higher education. These will not be easy tasks, especially given that states with Race to the Top grants have struggled to meet similar goals, and it’s unclear whether districts might face even more challenges, particularly if they are located in states that are not supportive of such reforms.

These districts’ plans remain to be seen – applications are due at the end of October – but this list does suggest that districts across the country and in nearly every state are interested in the program. Check back with Ed Money Watch as the RTT-D competition progresses for more updates and analysis.

This post was adapted for an analysis for our sister blog, Early Ed Watch.

Ryan Proposed Budget Cuts Could Mean Millions Lost for Some Districts

September 5, 2012

Paul Ryan’s proposal to cut federal spending by 20 percent has been impossible to ignore – especially what that might mean for education programs. Federal spending currently makes up about 10 percent of annual spending for education, so a 20 percent cut to that spending would only translate to 2 percent of total spending, on average. But what about the impact on non-average school districts?  As it turns out, more than 1,500 districts rely on federal funds for 20 percent or more of their annual revenue, and those districts would take a big hit.

Last week, Ed Media Commons showcased data from the Federal Education Budget Project, Ed Money Watch’s parent initiative, to reveal that these cuts could mean much more for districts that rely more heavily on federal funds. Using Census data on school districts’ total annual revenue and federal revenue for the 2009-10 school year, we calculated the percent of each district’s revenue made up of federal funds, as well as how much each district stands to lose under a 20 percent cut.

Of the more than 1,500 districts that rely on federal funds for 20 percent or more of their annual revenue, seventy-seven would lose more than 10 percent of their annual revenue if Congress were to cut federal spending by 20 percent. Those districts tend to be smaller, with enrollments mostly between 100 and 2,000.

These districts’ reliance on federal revenue can mostly be explained by high proportions of American Indian students. Many districts receive funds under Impact Aid, a federal program that provides funds to school districts with high proportions of “federally impacted” students like American Indians. Because those districts do not benefit from property tax revenue from people living on Indian reservations, the federal government makes up for that lost revenue. For example, Sanders Unified School District in Arizona had an enrollment of 1,049 in 2010 and nearly 97 percent of those students identified as American Indian. Of that district’s approximately $15 million in annual revenue, just over $9 million comes from federal sources. If Congress were to cut spending by 20 percent, Sanders Unified could lose as much as $1.8 million, 12 percent of its annual revenue.

Many large districts would also be disproportionately affected by big cuts to federal education funding. Los Angeles Unified School District, Chicago Public Schools, and Miami-Dade School District, the second-, third-, and fourth-largest school districts in the country, each rely on federal funds for more than 16 percent of their annual revenue. Chicago receives nearly 24 percent, or $1.2 billion, of its annual $5.1 billion in total revenue from federal sources. That federal funding comes from several federal programs aimed at low-income students such as Title I (about $300 million) and Free and Reduced Price Meals (about $140 million), as well as special education (about $90 million). A 20 percent cut to federal funding would mean a loss of $244 million for Chicago.

Of course, some districts rely very little on the federal government for education funding. Over 2,100 districts get 5 percent or less of their annual revenues from federal sources. These districts also tend to be smaller – only 248 have enrollments over 5,000 – and tend to serve wealthier and less diverse populations. Cheshire School District in Connecticut, for example, had an enrollment of 4,950 in 2010 and an annual revenue of over $71 million, only 4.5 percent of which came from federal sources. The district has a student poverty rate of only 3.1 percent, very few English language learners, and is made up of nearly 87 percent white students. This means the district receives very little federal funding under programs like Title I or Free and Reduced Price Meals. If federal spending were cut by 20 percent, Cheshire would only lose $637,000 in revenue.

While a 20 percent cut would be devastating for many school districts, others would lose only the aforementioned 2 percent or even less. These austere times mean that cuts to federal spending are likely. We hope that Congress is able to target those cuts in such a way that protects the most vulnerable students that benefit directly from federal spending. While Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act special education spending are often the most discussed, it is important that programs like Impact Aid also factor heavily into negotiations. For many of these districts, such a cut could mean millions of dollars or a substantial portion of their annual revenue.

Click here to download these data for every school district in the nation. To view programmatic and demographic data, please visit febp.newamerica.net/k12.

Friday News Roundup: Week of August 13-17

August 17, 2012

Kansas Board of Regents makes budget recommendations

West Virginia colleges address requested budget cuts

North Dakota governor proposing $545 million in tax relief

Louisiana university will lose 130 jobs in historic budget cuts

Kansas Board of Regents makes budget recommendations
The Kansas Board of Regents this week agreed to narrow its budget requests for fiscal year 2013 and will submit its budget to Governor Sam Brownback’s office next month. The request was reduced from $194 million to $78 million during its meeting. Kansas University’s request for $2.5 million to launch the Kansas Institute for Translational Chemical Biology was declined, but other requests did make the cut. The final list includes $2.8 million annually to fund Kansas University’s Wichita medical school campus, thanks to the early results of an evaluation of the school; $30 million to put towards construction of a medical education building at the KU Medical Center; and $20 million more than appropriated in fiscal year 2013 for deferred maintenance. Additionally, the state’s higher education block grant will grow by 1.7 percent ($12.4 million) in 2014, salaries will increase by 1 percent ($18 million), and two-year schools would receive $8 million more than in 2013. The governor will submit the budget to the legislature at the start of its new session in January 2013. More here…

West Virginia colleges address requested budget cuts
The West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education voted Thursday to approve a resolution promising not to increase tuition at any of its 10 schools if the state agrees not to cut its fiscal year 2014 budget. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin had proposed an $85 million budget cut, or 7.5 percent across most state agencies; the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission has already requested an exemption from the cuts. The chancellor of the Community and Technical School council noted that its schools may raise tuition by as much as five percent annually without approval anyway, but the councilmembers hoped to head off the cuts before they took effect. Some state agencies are exempt, including K-12 education; if financial aid for postsecondary students is exempted, the cuts to community and technical schools are expected to increase to 8.72 percent. More here…

North Dakota governor proposing $545 million in tax relief
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple this week issued a proposal that would cut taxes by $545 in the fiscal years 2013-2015 biennium and reform the state’s funding formula for elementary and secondary education. The tax cuts would come from property and income taxes (both for individuals and for corporations), but would also reduce school district taxes by 50 percent. The reduction in school taxes, Dalrymple said, should be considered a permanent part of the state’s K-12 school funding formula. More here…

Louisiana university will lose 130 jobs in historic budget cuts
University of New Orleans president Peter Fos this week announced plans to cut the school’s spending by $12 million in the current 2013 fiscal year. The school’s budget has been cut by about $28 million since January 2009, but even tuition increases allowed under a new law passed by the state legislature weren’t enough to offset the cuts this year. He plans to lay off 16 staff and leave 30 faculty positions vacant. Other faculty members have accepted early retirement. The total 130 jobs cut are equal to 7.5 percent of the school’s work force, and the savings will reach about $3.3 million. Declining enrollment of 7 percent from fall 2009 to fall 2011 also contributed to the budget cuts. More here…

School Funding Report Finds Inequities in State Allocation Formulas

August 16, 2012

Here at Ed Money Watch, we frequently write about the federal distribution of funds to states, but what states actually do with those funds once they get them is somewhat clouded by a lack of transparency. A new report published this summer by the Education Law Center and Rutgers University Graduate School of Education argues that inequities at the district level are perpetuated by the formulas states use to allocate federal, state, and local funds to school districts.

The Education Law Center report, “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,” measures ‘fairness’ in school funding – defined as providing schools with adequate funding to educate the students in their district, including additional costs created by higher poverty rates – on four metrics. The report is actually an update to a 2010 report from the group, with updates to increase accuracy.  But despite evidence to the contrary, the study starts from the assumption that more spending equates to better outcome from students, and therefore, using a series of metrics, defines ’fairness’ only by funding distribution.

The report’s authors suggest the achievement gap between low-income or minority students and their wealthier peers is not the result of failing schools so much as inequity perpetuated by states’ funding systems. Instead, it recommends, the federal government must address those fundamental inequalities in distributing federal dollars, while states and school districts should dramatically increase their expenditures if they hope to improve students’ outcomes. However, there are some pretty serious flaws in the starting assumptions – namely that students’ outcomes don’t always align with higher funding levels.

For one of their four measures, the authors used data that control for things like poverty, regional variation in wages, population density, and other factors. The study calculates state and local per pupil spending that should level the playing field if all states spend the same amount of money per child. (This assumes that the federal distribution of funds to states is fair, which it is not necessarily.)

The states were split nearly equally above and below the national average of $10,774 in 2009. The top-ranked state, Wyoming, had a per pupil expenditure that totaled $19,520, while Tennessee was ranked 51st at $7,306 – a pretty dramatic difference. But here’s the problem: Tennessee had a higher high school graduation rate and similar test scores in fourth- and eighth-graders as Wyoming. So it’s hard to argue that Wyoming is more “fair” than Tennessee when the states are getting the same results.

The report also looks at how states distribute funding to school districts according to poverty rates. A progressive system – a “fair funding” state, according to the report – would provide more funding for districts with higher concentrations of poverty than for high-income, low-poverty districts . Yet only 17 states in 2009 provided progressive funding, while 16 actually gave less state and local funding to their poorest school districts (though 11 of those didn’t show a pattern in the distributions). Another 15 states revealed virtually no difference in funding for low- and high-poverty districts. That claim tracks out, to some extent – Massachusetts and New Jersey, both of which rank fairly highly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), have progressive systems, while Alabama’s low NAEP scores are supported by a regressive system.

Another measure, effort, examines the percentage of each state’s gross domestic product (GDP) allocated to education spending, rather than the specific ways in which funds are distributed to districts. It is a more subjective measure than the others, given that the report’s authors assign a grade to each state according to their own arguable standard for the percentage of funding that should be dedicated to education. In spite of those questions, though, the data did reveal a few interesting points. For example, Hawaii and Maine both reduced their funding efforts by more than 20 percent from 2007 to 2009. And states’ wealth didn’t seem to be a determinant for this factor; Delaware has the third-largest per capita GDP in the country, but the Education Law Center ranked it 51st in effort.

Given the financial constraints that federal, state, and local governments are facing in the ongoing economic recession, the report’s authors are optimistic and more than a little unrealistic in insisting that states must increase their overall funding for education to see improvement. Their starting assumption that more money inherently leads to better outcomes is not always supported. We would have been interested to see a study that tied these fairness measures to student outcomes, instead, given that results are what count. Furthermore we already know that the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act has its own inequity problems in its Title I distribution formulas, so state systems are hardly the only offender when it comes to “fair” funding distribution. Still, we agree: States, as well as students, would be better served if they revised their funding distributions to be more equitable, especially because an extra influx of cash seems so unlikely.

Revisiting Ryan Versus Obama on Pell Grants

August 14, 2012

This post was updated August 18th to reflect possible higher costs for the Ryan Pell proposal

All eyes are back on the Pell Grant proposal in the Ryan budget (the House-passed fiscal year 2013 budget resolution) now that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be Governor Mitt Romney’s running mate. It goes unmentioned, however, that when it comes to Pell Grant funding, both Ryan and Obama are making promises that they cannot possibly keep.

The plan Rep. Ryan included in his fiscal 2013 budget resolution would make a series of eligibility changes to the program, end the portion of the program’s budget funded as an entitlement, and cancel the next five years of inflationary increases to the maximum grant. (Click here to view a side-by-side comparison of Ryan's proposed changes.) The plan also assumes that Congress will support a maximum grant of $5,550 each year through the appropriation process.

Based on our estimates, that would require an annual appropriation of about $28 billion (maybe even $30 billion), taking the eligibility changes into account. While that is less than what the program currently costs in total, it is about $6 billion more (or possibly $8 billion more) than what Congress typically provides through the appropriations process. Assuming such a big increase in funding for the Pell Grant program seems like a tall order given that the Ryan plan also assumes reductions in total appropriations spending as compared to the current trajectory.

Now the Obama plan. The president proposes no eligibility changes to the program and would keep the entitlement funding portion intact, along with the inflationary increases in the maximum grant. To do so, the president would temporarily allocate additional funding to the program – but for only one year by cutting funding to other programs (mainly student loans). In 2015 and each year thereafter, President Obama’s plan assumes Congress will support the program with an annual appropriation of $32 billion, or $10 billion more than what Congress typically provides.

That is essentially the same unrealistic proposal that the Ryan plan lays out – both plans hinge on Congress making annual appropriations for the program that are higher than they are today, year after year, meaning that some other program(s) must be cut by the same amount. What should Congress cut to pay for that kind of increase? Neither candidate has said.

Sure, the Obama plan spares students from eligibility changes and includes a small increase in the grant, and the Ryan budget does not. But President Obama’s promised Pell Grant benefits should hardly reassure students, families, and education advocates, given that his plan amounts to little more than a heroic assumption about future funding. Yet these groups seem all too eager to let the president get away with proposing a budgetary near-impossibility, while taking Rep. Paul Ryan to task for proposing effectively the same thing.   

If the president’s supporters think that they are acting in the best interest of soon-to-be Pell Grant recipients by trashing the Ryan budget and touting the Obama plan, they are deluding themselves. The Pell Grant program is headed for a fiscal cliff that lawmakers cannot avoid by assuming more money will materialize. It’s going to take real money, which means advocates and policymakers need to start making real tradeoffs. So far, neither Ryan nor Obama has made those tradeoffs, and Pell Grant supporters shouldn’t give only one of them a free pass.

Friday News Roundup: Week of July 30-August 3

August 3, 2012

Alabama education fund revenue on pace to meet expenses

Sending more money to classroom part of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s plan to revamp school funding

University of Hawaii Foundation raises $66.9 million during fiscal year for public university system

California reaches deep into special funds to pay for schools, prisons, social services

Alabama education fund revenue on pace to meet expenses
Alabama finance officials said this week that they expect the state’s Education Trust Fund will collect enough revenue to meet its fiscal year 2012 target and avoid across-the-board spending cuts next year. The Finance Department reported that the trust fund has already raised $4.51 billion in the first 10 months of the 2012 fiscal year ending on September 30, 2012. That’s a 5.9 percent increase over the same fiscal year 2011 period. However, a legislative maneuver passed earlier this year also transferred $40 million from the fiscal year 2012 fund for use in 2013, so the fund will have to grow by 6.3 percent over the entire fiscal year 2012 period from 2011 levels if it is to break even with the $40 million in extra fundraising. The fund primarily collects money from state income and sales taxes, and has fluctuated with the economic ups-and-downs of the recession. More here…

Ohio Governor John Kasich plans to send more money to classroom and part of funding revamp
Ohio Governor John Kasich’s administration is working to design a new school funding formula, to be released early next year with the governor’s fiscal years 2013-2014 biennial budget. Since 1997, when the Ohio Supreme Court found the state’s school finance system unconstitutional, three other rulings have reached the same conclusion because it relies too much on local property taxes, severely disadvantaging land-poor school districts. The plan will allegedly include decreases in funding for administration, but divert more money to classroom costs. That may entail pooling districts’ services across a region to save administrative costs. Several House Finance Committee members in the state legislature are also taking on the challenge of rewriting the formula, and have embarked on a statewide tour to hear public opinion. Democrats in the legislature, however, are concerned that the funding formula will cut total dollars spent on K-12 schools, rather than simply shifting them to instructional costs. More here…

University of Hawaii Foundation raises $66.9 million during fiscal year for public university system
The University of Hawaii Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is separate from the university itself, raised $66.9 million for the school in fiscal year 2012. The funds will go to supporting the school’s 10 campuses. A plurality of the funds, $19.3 million, came from individual donors who were not alumni. University alumni contributed $15.4 million, while corporations donated $13.1 million to the school system, and foundations funded $13.3 million. According to the foundation, the fundraising included nearly $17 million for student aid. Faculty support was the next biggest category at $11.6 million, and funds for facilities totaled $10.4 million. More here…

California reaches deep into special funds to pay for schools, prisons, social services
California’s budget includes 560 “special funds,” accounts designated for specific purposes that collect revenue from particular taxes or fees. Because of the recession, the state has increasingly borrowed from those funds to afford educational and social services and prison costs that would otherwise be paid for from the state’s general fund. California currently owes those special funds $4.3 billion, more than five times the amount owed in fiscal year 2008, although the special fund dollars – $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2013 – comprise only a small portion of the $91.3 billion 2013 state budget. Governor Jerry Brown has promised to repay the funds with interest, but has no way to do so unless voters pass his suggested tax hikes in the November elections. Still, even before the recession, the state had failed to repay $448 million in special fund loans from 2002 and 2003, and $1.3 billion of the outstanding loans are not tied to repayment by any particular date. More here…

Forum Tackles Issues of Complacency in Early Education

August 2, 2012

Those who have been following the presidential campaigns may have noticed that neither Obama or Romney have given early childhood care and education much attention. According to some panelists at an event on early childhood and the economy hosted by National Journal and sponsored by the First Five Years fund yesterday, that’s because few politicians give it top billing on their priority lists.

New Reports Analyze Federal and State Investments in Children

July 30, 2012

The economic recession has thrust more families into poverty and slowed federal, state and local revenue. A new report out this week from First Focus, “Children’s Budget 2012,” examines the amount of federal dollars directed toward children in this challenging climate.

Although total federal funding for children rose over the past five years by about 17.5 percent ($46 billion), the report finds this is primarily due to increased eligibility for entitlement programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. The annual discretionary funding Congress appropriates for children’s programs has fallen in each of the past two years, and dropped in inflation-adjusted terms by 1.5 percent between 2008 and 2012.

Friday News Roundup: Week of July 23-27

July 27, 2012

Missouri public school aid formula facing $700 million shortfall

Texas financial aid program to fall well short of need

Louisiana school officials face aid freeze challenges

Board vote means $300 million less for Texas schools

Missouri public school aid formula facing $700 million shortfall
Missouri public schools, assured that they will receive a set per-pupil amount each year from state and local funding, will instead collect about $250 million less than the full funding amount in the current 2013 fiscal year. By fiscal year 2014, the shortfall is expected to grow to about $700 million.  That’s because the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was supposed to increase the per-pupil funding target to $6,423 in 2013, but instead froze the target at $6,131 because of ongoing state economic concerns. The target is set to rise again next year to $6,716, but the Department has not yet decided whether it will freeze the target again. In fiscal year 2013, the Missouri legislature provided more than $3 billion for elementary and secondary public education. More here…

Texas financial aid program to fall well short of need
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board voted this week to request $580.8 million in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 for the state’s main financial aid program, Texas Grants, from the legislature. That’s a $21.2 million increase from the previous 2012-2013 biennial budget, paid for by transferring money from other grant or loan programs. Still, it won’t be enough to fully fund the program; full funding would total $1.4 billion. Lawmakers haven’t provided full funding for the program since 2004; although they have allocated more money every year since, the number of eligible students has risen more rapidly. As it is, about half of eligible freshmen will likely receive the grants. More here…

Louisiana school officials face aid freeze challenges
For the fourth consecutive year, state aid to Louisiana public schools will be frozen. The state funding that will remain stagnant is meant to support faculty salaries, costs of classroom resources like textbooks, and other issues. The only exception will be an increase in money due to higher enrollment, but although the total will increase, per-pupil enrollment will remain the same as in the previous three years. The fiscal year 2013 budget totals $3.4 billion and covers about 700,000 public school students. Three years of frozen budgets have forced layoffs, deferred salary increases, transfers from school districts’ rainy day funds, and cuts to transportation and other services. Earlier this year, voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase, dedicated in part to technology costs in schools and to cover the costs of state-required foreign language instruction in elementary schools, which will help to defray the effects of the stagnant spending. More here…

Board vote means $300 million less for Texas schools
Public schools in Texas were expected to see $5.4 billion in cuts to public education over fiscal years 2012 and 2013 until a legislator, Rep. Rob Orr (R-Burleson), proposed a constitutional amendment that would pour another $300 million into schools. The amendment passed both chambers of the legislature and as a referendum in last year’s elections. But now the School Land Board, the group authorized by the amendment to disburse the new money, has decided to save the funds rather than distribute the money to schools. That means legislators left a $300 million hole in last year’s two-year budget – expecting it to be filled with the newly-authorized funds – and schools are now stuck without the additional money in 2013. The money is only a small share of the $34 billion schools will receive for the 2012 and 2013 school years, but coupled with $2.3 billion in deferred payments to schools and a $3.9 billion Medicaid shortfall, could affect schools’ budgets. More here…

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