The Joint Finance Committee has approved an omnibus motion on K-12 education funding. Key provisions include:
- Low Revenue Ceiling: raised from $10,000 to $11,000: school districts with a per pupil revenue limit of less than $11,000 will be permitted to raise their revenue limit/pupil up to $11,000 (beginning in FY24 and remaining at that level for FY25)
- Districts that hold an unsuccessful operational referendum will be held to the current low revenue ceiling for three years, unless another referendum is held which succeeds.
- Per Pupil Aid was not increased. It is likely the amount for school districts will remain at $742 per pupil in FY24 & FY25.
- General Equalization Aid: $154.7 M in FY24 and $379.6 M in FY25; general state aid goes directly to schools, but because it is received under the revenue limit it does not increase spendable resources.
Categorical State Aids
- Special Education Aid: increased $97 M over the biennium to raise the reimbursement rate to 33.3% in FY24 and FY25 (rate is ~31.5% for FY23).
- High-Cost Special Education Aid: increased by $4.6 M over the biennium to raise the reimbursement rate to 45% in FY24 & 50% in FY25 (rate is estimated to be 39.5% for FY23).
- Bilingual-Bicultural Aid: increased by $3 M over the biennium ($1.5 M annually) to modestly raise the reimbursement rate to ~8.8% (rate is estimated to be 7.6% for FY23)
- High-Cost Transportation Aid: increase by $5.88 M over the biennium ($2.94 M annually) to raise the reimbursement to 75% (and eliminate the $200,000 cap on stop-gap payments for districts that lose eligibility for aid.)
- Pupil Transportation Aid: increase the reimbursement rate for pupils transported 12+ miles from $375/pupil to $400 per pupil (no increase to the appropriation but the appropriation is anticipated to be able to absorb the additional cost of the increased aid payment).
- Sparsity Aid: increase funding by $630,200 in each year to raise the reimbursement rate to 100% of eligible costs (for districts with fewer than 10 members per square mile, a district with 745 or fewer members is eligible for $400/member and districts with 746 to 1,000 members is eligible for $100/member).
- School-Based Mental Health Grants: increase by $30 M over the biennium ($15 M annually).
- The motion specifies that instead of distributing as a competitive grant, DPI will distribute these funds on a per pupil basis to school districts and independent charter schools.
- The motion also modifies the current law language for the program’s purpose, from collaborating with “community mental health agencies” to instead refer to “mental health providers”.
- The motion notes that the funding provided in the motion ($25 M annually) would provide $31 per pupil in FY24 & FY25, and then when the appropriation returns to $10 M annually, the funding would support payments of $12 per pupil. For this program, pupils include those enrolled in school districts and in independent charter schools.
- School Library Aids: increase funding by $24 M over the biennium ($7 M annually), based on estimates of the amount available from the Common School Fund.
- Robotics League Participation Grants: increase funding from $250,000 annually to $500,000 annually.
- Lakeland STAR Academy: provide $250,000 in FY24 & $500,000 in FY25 for this school.
- Change the funding index, which could increase payments by $412 in FY24 and then by another $348 in FY25, not accounting for the impact of SB-330 , which would create a significant increase to per pupil payment amounts. Increased payments for vouchers and privately run charter schools will result in aid reductions of various amounts for local school districts.
JFC Supplemental Appropriation
The following funding was approved, but the details of how the monies will be made available to school districts has not been determed:
- Early Literacy and Reading Improvement: set aside $50 M (for use implementing AB-0321/SB-0329, i.e., “the Reading bill”).
- Shared School District Services: set aside $5 M for shared school district services (presumably, for implementing the multiple shared services bills introduced earlier this session).
- Recovery High School: set aside $500,000 annually for a recovery high school (public, private, or tribal school) designed for students recovering from a substance use disorder (presumably to implement AB-0271/SB-0276)
Test & Punish Reading Law
A bill to create politically appointed panels to determine reading curriculm and dictate early learning reading curriculum passed through the Assembly Committee on State Affairs and has received a hearing from the Senate Education Committee. WEAC has rasied concerns over the political nature of the bill, instead of relying on education experts, such as through the development of a reading council with six appointees from the majority party and three from the Department of Public Instruction. A part of the bill requiring any third grader who scored low on one standardized test to be held back was removed. The bill triples the number of tests K-3 students take, requires what type of materials can be purchased in public schools, specifically prohibiting certain materials, requires teachers to attain additional certification with no additional pay and makes it easier to sue teachers in circuit court.
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