Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

School spending still below pre-recession levels; Is it a surplus or a deficit (cont)…; BESE scraps competitive grants from 8(g) fund; and Greater investments needed in infants and toddlers

School spending still below pre-recession levels

Louisiana is one of 30 states that are spending less money per K-12 student than they were before the Great Recession. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that per-pupil spending in Louisiana is 3.2 percent lower per student than in 2008, after adjusting for inflation. That translates to $167 less per year, per student, than before the state economy went south. Louisiana is hardly alone, and far from the worst. Fourteen states have cut per-student funding by more than 10 percent, and four states — Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, and Idaho — have cut funding by more than 15 percent.


At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more — not less — to ensure that our kids get a strong education,’ said Michael Leachman, CBPP’s director of state fiscal research and co-author of the report.


Is it a surplus or a deficit (cont) …

The questions about whether state government finished the 2014 fiscal year with a budget surplus or a deficit continued to mount on Wednesday, as did the war of words between Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration and its critics. Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said he won’t know until his office conducts an audit whether $319 million that the administration claims it found in various state funds should be counted toward a state surplus. Legislative Fiscal Officer John Carpenter, meanwhile, said “it does appear that there was a balance carried over from prior years” that should have been counted on the state’s official balance sheet. But a spokeswoman for the governor’s budget office could not provide a breakdown of where the money came from.


State Treasurer John Kennedy, meanwhile, continued to insist that the “surplus” is a result of creative accounting. He said in a prepared statement:


“It is clear that we spent more money than we brought in last fiscal year. We have a $141 million deficit.  It’s also clear that the administration wants to use its own secret slush fund to resolve the problem while blaming others for the mess. I don’t blame them.  I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for the bad budget practices that drove the Office of Group Benefits into financial ruin, drained the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly and crippled our universities.  As Treasurer, I’ll continue to be a watchdog over the people’s money. If the Legislature wants me to take charge of the budget, I will.”


BESE scraps competitive grants from 8(g) fund

The state’s top school board voted narrowly Wednesday to scrap a $1.7 million competitive grant program meant to encourage innovation, in favor of dividing that money more evenly between school districts and the state Department of Education. The vote by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education marked a departure from current policy, and reverses a decision made by a board committee earlier this week.


The cash in question comes from the 8(g) fund, which is made up of Louisiana’s share of revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling.

This year, about $1.7 million in 8(g) competitive grants went to four school systems and to the state’s Jump Start career education program. And some school systems, according to the board’s 8(g) advisory group, took issue with that. The advisory group recommended in September that the board nix the competitive and special projects programs, in favor of funneling more block grant money to early childhood needs.


Greater investments needed in infants and toddlers

The demographics of America are changing rapidly, and nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in America’s youngest citizens. Children of color comprise a majority of the population under 2, and this year marks the first time that more than half the students in public school are racial and ethnic minorities. This demographic shift comes at a time when poverty rates and income inequality remain stubbornly high, as millions of parents are one illness, missed paycheck or car repair away from being financially destitute.


A new report from the Center for American Progress says these changes argue for more investments in early childhood education, and better alignment of current resources.


The current approach to service delivery for young children is fragmented and under-resourced. Growing poverty and diversity demands another look at how infants and toddlers and their families are served. It also demands a greater effort to align and expand the current patchwork of social support programs to serve young children in a cohesive way that best sets them up for success now and in the future.


Number of the Day
46 – Percentage of total education spending in the U.S. that comes from state funds (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)