With less than one week remaining in the 2017 Legislative Session, many budget and policy decisions are unresolved. Funding for public schools is not one of those decisions. Once again, public schools are not winners in the state funding derby.
The Senate entered the budget negotiation process with a 3 percent increase per student for a total increase of almost $800 million. Of this increase, 95 percent was derived from local property taxes, based on increased property values. The Legislature provided state funding to offset a similar increase in 2016.
The Legislature has agreed to fund each student $24.49 higher than last year, an increase of less than one half of one percent (0.34 percent) over the current budget year. The approved per-student funding level of $7,221 for 2017-18 is lower than the $7,306 per student appropriated a decade ago in 2007. In the last 10 years costs have increased, making the reduced funding even more pronounced.
Legislators can no longer talk glibly about failing public schools. Without adequate funding, these policymakers doom public schools to failure. Legislators must step up and fund schools at a level that keeps pace with inflation, lest they be perceived as a driving impetus for the failure. Anything less undermines our children, our families, our businesses and our economy.