Sitting on record surplus, House plans bumps per-student spending by just $11

Cash for kids

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SEAN RAYFORD FILE
  • Sean Rayford file

A draft of the state budget shorts public K-12 students nearly $600 each. The House began budget deliberations this week on the state's $9.6 billion spending plan, which has about $1.8 billion in record increases of revenues.

The House Ways and Means Committee increased the base student cost from $2,489 in 2019-2020 to $2,500 in the proposed budget, an increase of $16 million. The state formula for base student cost, however, requires $3,164 for it to be fully funded, which would cost $652 million, according to committee staff.

At an early budget hearing at the Blatt building on the Statehouse grounds Wednesday, Rep. Wendy Brawley (D-Hopkins) asked why it's not fully funded. K-12 education budget subcommittee chair Bill Whitmire (R-Walhalla) responded: "That's all the money we had. We had to choose: $3,000 [each] for teachers or the base student cost not being as high."

The proposed across-the-board, state-funded teacher pay raises will cost $213 million, in addition to regular pay raises for years in a teaching position.

House Speaker Jay Lucas' media liaison Nicolette Walters said the budget does more for education beyond base student cost with $10 million for more school resource officers, $60 million for capital improvements, $76.5 million for instructional materials as common core is phased out, $26 million for school buses, and $53 million for bringing 4K statewide.

Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (R-York) said the base student cost is calculated through a formula that needs to be examined and reworked by legislators. The Senate Education Committee has already tasked a panel to look at education formulas.

With a potential for additional revenues in projections by state budget forecasters, the Senate could increase the base student cost allocation but it is unlikely to meet the full requirements by law, sources say. House Education and Public Works Chair Rita Allison of Lyman said she hoped the Senate will increase it.

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