You are here

Articles: Budget

Before the sun rises most days, Dwight D. Jones is at the office. Since becoming superintendent of the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Nevada last December, 4:30 a.m. arrivals are common. “There’s just hardly enough time in the day,” Jones says.

In 2004, Deborah Verstegen, professor of education finance, policy and leadership at the College of Education at the University of Reno, wanted to create a vast library of data that, until now, didn’t exist: state-by-state school finance formula figures. “The search for the best model to use in funding education is a perennial concern and interest,” she says.

In 2009, a year after joining Illinois School District U-46 from his previous post as regional superintendent for Chicago Public Schools’ Area 14, Jose M. Torres made unprecedented cuts to his district’s budget and personnel.


Typical public school revenue streams such as state money and property taxes were decimated by the recession nationwide, and districts across Chicago faced deficits worse than U-46’s anticipated $60 million hole in the coming years. It wasn’t a surprise that cuts in U-46 were necessary, but Torres’ tactics were.

From the outset, President Obama placed teacher quality at the center of his Education Plan. In a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., in March of 2009, he stated, “To complete our Race to the Top requires the three pillars of reform—recruiting, preparing and rewarding outstanding teachers. From the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents. It’s the person standing at the front of the classroom.”

Kansas City (Mo.) Public Schools is at a crossroads. The district has struggled for decades with poor academic achievement, dwindling enrollment and budget, and short-term superintendents—27 in the past 40 years. Most recently, after a two-year stint during which he helped the district get its financial house in order, closing nearly half of its schools and slashing staffing levels, Superintendent John Covington abruptly quit last August.

Time and money can be

With the U.S. Department of Education receiving a minimal increase in allotted spending for 2012—$68.43 billion compared to 2011’s $68.35 billion—the House and Senate have begun debates as to how the money will be spent. The democrat-dominated Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill Sep. 21 that would provide stagnant funding for formula-based grants, including Title I, for the upcoming year.inside the law photo

The federal Department of Education has been a source of criticism on the GOP presidential campaign trail. In addition to overall shrinking of federal policies, many Republican candidates have expressed their desire to abolish the federal department and funnel more money—and control—back to the states and local schools. Sen. Michele Bachman, Rep. Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have all listed the Department of Education as one federal agency they would like to take an ax to.

Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport heard arguments in August in Lobato v. state of Colorado, the first-ever "adequacy case" in Colorado's history. The basis of the case is the state's setting of high standards of achievement for students and schools without having provided adequate funding to meet those demands. According to some witnesses for the plaintiff, computers, broadband for Internet access, and professional development are among the resources that have been lacking in Colorado schools for years, violating two clauses in the state's constitution.

An estimated 8,000 people made the trip to Capitol Hill on July 29-31 for the Save Our Schools March. The rally, which was reportedly supposed to draw about 1 million supporters, was held to elevate issues such as putting an end to high stakes testing, provide equitable funding for all public schools, increase family and community leadership in forming public education policies, and increase local control of curriculum.

On June 8, News Corp., a media company owned by Rupert Murdoch, snatched two leading school district administrators to head its new education division. Peter Gorman, former superintendent of the Charlotte- Mecklenburg (N.C.) Schools, is the unit's new senior vice president, and Kristen Kane, the former chief operating officer of the New York City Department of Education, is its COO. Late last year, Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, made the decision as well to join News Corp. as senior advisor to Murdoch.

For Sale signs

Across the nation, state expenditures on public education are expected to decline in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 (National Governors Association and National Association of State Budget Officers, 2010). For the fourth consecutive year, despite a temporary boost from federal stimulus funds, governors are proposing deep cuts to education in 2012, and the majority of states plan to spend less in 2012 on education than they did in 2008, adjusting for inflation, despite larger enrollments of students in public schools (Leachman, Williams, & Johnson, 2011).

A North Mecklenburg Vikings player.

One of the controversial issues of late has been the rise of "pay-to-play," in which parents pay user fees so that their children can participate in interscholastic athletics.

Draconian cuts have become the order of business for many school districts since the economic recession hit in 2008. But for the coming school year, "draconian" has taken on an even harsher meaning, as states from California and Texas to Illinois and New York wrestle with deficits in the tens of billions of dollars and make multi-billion-dollar reductions in funding for education.

School finance reform has become a key component for transforming public schools in the United States. Over the last decade, a growing number of districts have turned to an approach known by different names— student-based budgeting, weighted student funding and fair student funding, among others—in which budgets are allocated to schools in dollars, based on the needs of students within a school, rather than in staff positions.

Pages