We don’t know if state revenue will come in at a level that will allow the Legislature to be Santa Claus to public schools, but we hope so, and we think that the state education board is making a reasonable request for an increase to local systems.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will recommend a 2.75 percent increase in school aid, about $70 million. That’s not much in the billions already spent, but many systems today struggle with narrow margins between revenue and expenses.
In a time of considerable change for public education, the application of a little extra money might sound a little crass, as if buying off criticism. BESE and the Legislature are not the most popular public bodies with the local systems, where most of the real heavy lifting in education reform must be achieved.
And, to be fair, most systems do have taxing capacity to raise their own money locally and not just depend on the Minimum Foundation Program, the principal state aid program.
Yet tax increases are hard to get by voters in a tough economy with unemployment still too high since the 2008 financial crash.
There also are new costs that will accrue to systems with the adoption of higher academic standards, called the Common Core State Standards. We believe these are a good idea, but making the new standards work includes using online materials better and generally making schools more capable in technology.
Technology costs real money, and systems have been absorbing many of those costs. For those reasons, we think an MFP adjustment is justified, but as BESE and, we hope, local school boards should be aware, state revenue collections might be an obstacle to achieving that goal this year. BESE must finalize its budget request just before the Legislature meets in March.
We hope an aid increase is possible, and it is invested in technology and teacher support to make the transition to Common Core more successful.