Public School Budgets

We offer an overview of public school budgets; where the money comes from, how it’s spent and what schools are doing to get more funding. Learn how schools are cutting budgets and how the cuts will impact your child. Delve into some of the creative ways school districts are trying to raise money and where the extra money is spent.
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Now that the sequester has officially gone into effect, many are wondering how spending cuts will impact the public school system across the country. While federal funding cuts would not take effect for any schools until the new school year begins in the fall, concerns are in the minds of educators, parents, students and community members now. In fact, some districts are already taking steps to make appropriate adjustments in case federal funding does not come as planned.
What is the Sequester?
The sequester is a series of budget cuts that were put into law by the Budget Control Act and signed by President Obama in August, 2011. The budget cuts were designed to provide incentive to Congress to find a solution to the country’s debt crisis. They were never meant to go into effect, but a stalemate in Congress has led to the implementation of the dreaded sequester.
The sequester impacts most aspects of current government spending, according to the Huffington Post. About $550 billion of the $1.2 trillion in cuts will be seen by the U.S. military and national security operations. The rest will be cut from domestic programs, including unemployment benefits, health care – and education. Due to the way the sequester was set up, some areas of federal funding will see no impact, such as Medicare, social security and money spent on wars.
The sequester took effect on March 1, at 11:59 p.m. Congress could still minimize the impact of the new law, by coming to an agreement on a different approach to balancing the budget. If that occurs, schools may not see the federal funding cuts that are currently looming. However, in light of the fact that Congress has had months and even years to come to that agreement, school districts must begin preparing for the worst in anticipation that the agreement won’t come on time – or at all.
Where Schools will Feel the Hit
The drop in federal funding will be felt differently by schools in different areas of the country. The primary purpose for federal funding in . . . read more
As schools look at a variety of options to improve school and student performance, one variable consistently comes to the forefront – money. While many educators assert that bigger budgets could solve many of the problems in education today, politicians at all levels agree more money is probably not in the foreseeable future of most schools districts across the country. In place of more funding, some areas are now looking to different ways to allocate the money that is currently available. Student-based funding is the new buzzword for school districts interested in getting the money to the schools and students who need it most. Now, Georgia is joining the student-based funding bandwagon.

What is Student-Based Funding?
Student-based funding is a method of allotting funding to school districts, and even individual schools, based on the needs of individual students. This contrasts to traditional school funding that is determined by educational programs, creating an average amount spent on every student within a given district. Proponents of student-based funding argue that traditional funding results in disparities throughout the educational system, as schools with high-need students are left wanting for resources. Student-based funding aims to reduce those disparities, without the need for additional money for which educators regularly champion.
According to the website for the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, student-based funding begins by assigning specific weights to each type of students. The weights are measured by the cost of educating that student, whether a student with special needs, gifted student or average student. Once those specific weights are determined, funding can be allotted to each district and school based on a precise formula that more accurately takes the specific needs of the student population into consideration.
Transition of Power
The other unique feature of student-based funding is that it takes control of the education process out of the hands of state government and puts it into local school boards and administrators. Currently, states make all the decisions on school funding across the entire state, and any changes that are made to budget . . . read more
With the Mega Millions craze sweeping the country in recent weeks, how have public schools benefited?  According to lottery advertising, one of the benefits of this form of gambling is generating funding for public schools.  While it sounds good on paper, how much benefit do lotteries really offer to public school systems? It turns out the answer to that question may be much more complex than it appears on the surface.

An Overview of Lotteries
According to the website for the Georgia Lottery system, lottery is a “game of chance in which players have an equal opportunity to win prizes.” The first American lottery was held in Jamestown in 1612, and it made up half the entire budget the early settlers needed to build their colony. Lotteries were used by President George Washington to support the Revolutionary War, and Thomas Jefferson used them to fund a variety of public projects.
Lotteries have traditionally been used to support public works projects like building and street construction, as well as education and environmental projects. Today’s lotteries utilize the latest technology to allow players the choice between instant tickets and online games, as well as the standard lottery drawing games. Prizes for lotteries have also become more extravagant, as evidenced with the recent Mega Millions game that has made headlines in states like Virginia, California and North Carolina.
Where does Lottery Money Go?
The proceeds from lotteries can go to a variety of venues, as determined by the state. Many states boast that lottery revenues go directly to public education budgets, benefitting the children who live there first and foremost. For the most part, those claims are correct, although they can be somewhat misleading. Still, no one can argue millions – and even billions – of additional dollars have gone into state education budgets as a result of lottery participation.
Virginia Schools Cleaning Up
According to a report at the Washington Post, Virginia generated nearly $22 million in revenue just from the Mega Millions game alone. All of those proceeds reportedly go directly into the state’s . . . read more
If Governor Rick Scott has his way, Florida schools will see a boost to their budget this year. That is good news to schools that have been pinching their pennies as budgets have dwindled in recent years, due to an increase in students and falling property values. However, the additional money won’t come without a cost, as Scott wants to move funds from the prison system and Medicaid program to offer more funding for the public school system.

Education to be Top Priority in Florida
According to a report at Tampa Bay Online, Scott is making a dramatic shift in policy by citing education as one of the top priorities for the state of Florida this year. Last year, the governor was criticized by Florida residents for slashing the education budget by $1.3 billion, which amounted to over $500 per student. The total cut was actually less than the governor had requested, decreasing from a 10-percent cut in his initial request to an actual eight-percent cut that was approved by the Florida legislature.
This year, Scott wants to boost the public school budget by $1 billion, bringing it closer to what it was prior to last year’s decreases. The change of heart by the governor may be attributed to a number of factors. First, in town meetings across the state, Scott heard time and time again how important education was to Florida residents.
“They [Floridians] want education to be a priority,” Scott explained to HT Politics. “I’m committed to act on what I’ve heard.”
The state is currently at the bottom of the pack in terms of education spending, teacher salaries and graduation rates, according to an article in the New York Times. While Florida Democrats are happy to see the governor change his tune on education this year, they are still concerned that it will take more than a single boost in the state budget to bring education back to the quality it enjoyed just a few short years ago.
“He is replacing part of the . . . read more
With the first day of school still a clear memory and fall holidays right around the corner, the focus of many school districts is on a single obscure event that typically falls during the months of September or October. Count day is the one day of the school year that means everything to schools in terms of the amount of funding they receive. For every student that can be accounted for on this special day, funds are allotted for that school. During a time when school budgets are stretched well past their comfort levels, it is no wonder that count day is becoming bigger than any other day of the year for some school districts.

Why Count Day?
According the Michigan state government website, count day is the day when all the public schools in the state total up all of the students attending their schools. The event also occurs in other states, like Colorado and Indiana. On this day, the number of students tallied adds up to direct funding for the school. For example, every student counted on count day in Colorado brings an additional $6,400 into the school in which he is enrolled, according to data in the Denver Post. In the Detroit Public School system, every student accounted for on count day means more than $7,000 for the school.
Count days typically take place in both the fall and winter school terms. However, in Michigan, the fall count day makes up 90 percent of the school’s funding this year, while the winter count day in February only provides 10 percent of the total funding. Each student tallied on count day must be legally enrolled in the school prior to or on that specific date. To be counted, students must attend school that day and stay for all of the instruction provided on that day.
Getting Kids into the Classroom
As one might suspect with this type of system, getting children into the classroom on count day becomes a high priority for school districts that must depend on . . . read more
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