CONTACT: David Albert
The new state budget delivers a school aid increase of $859 million despite a tight fiscal year. Competition for state funding was particularly fierce, and we thank lawmakers for making education a high priority again this year.
Our enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by the fact that the aid increase is less than what we believe is necessary to maintain current educational programming. Thankfully, the Legislature rejected a harmful proposal to cap expense based aids.
We are pleased that lawmakers took action to help taxpayers offset the reduction in the federal SALT exemption by giving schools the option to create a local charitable fund. This will allow school boards to give taxpayers an option for reducing their federal tax burden while still supporting their schools.
Unfortunately, the budget includes many new mandates. The most egregious is a requirement that all schools submit per pupil building level allocations to the state. Starting next year, districts will be required to publicize actual building level, per pupil expenditure information under federal law. This new state requirement adds an extra layer of paperwork to what is already the most transparent and public budgeting process in the state. Moreover, the state Division of the Budget and State Education Department can withhold aid if the report is not submitted in the proper format.
This requirement gives too much latitude to the state to deem the information submitted by school districts as incomplete, potentially undermining the budgeting authority of local school boards.
Many important issues remain before the end of the session. We look forward to working with the governor and Legislature to enact policies that improve student achievement and create new learning opportunities.