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Funding our schools: Categorical funding decreases

As I mentioned in my last column, the leadership of the General Assembly likes to tout that they have increased funding for K-12 public schools even though the categorical funding available to meet the needs of the state’s 1,449,515 students (as of last school year) is really decreasing.  Let’s examine just how much the funding for various categories has decreased since 2008-09.

Teacher Assistants:  The basis of the formula for the allotment changed in 2015-16, making it more difficult to compare the change (reduction), but in terms of dollars, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools received $13,349,170 in 2015-16 vs. $18,527,966 in 2008-09, a reduction of $5,178,796 or 28 percent. The actual reduction impact is greater than that because we have more students to serve now than then and because the required matching health insurance and retirement costs have increased over 50 percent in that period of time. Due to the increase in students, we would have received $5,357,489 more this year if teacher assistant funding had been allotted using the 2008-09 formula, but that still does not take into account the additional loss of ability to fund positions due to the increased costs of matching health insurance and retirement.

Assistant Principals:  In 2008-09, we received a 10-month assistant principal position for every 800 students. For 2015-16, we received a 10-month assistant principal position for every 985.3 students, a reduction of 19 percent. If assistant principals were allotted in 2015-16 using the 2008-09 formula, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools would have received an additional 12.5 assistant principal positions for our 80 schools.

Instructional Support Positions:  Instructional support positions include guidance counselors, media coordinators (librarians), social workers, psychologists, and nurses, all of whom provide direct support services to students. In 2008-09, we received one 10-month position for every 200.1 students. For 2015-16, we received one 10-month position for every 218.55 students, a reduction of 8.4 percent. If instructional support positions were allotted in 2015-16 using the 2008-09 formula, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools would have received an additional 23 needed student services positions.

Classroom Materials, Supplies, and Equipment:  The state allotment formula in 2008-09 was $58.77 per student. For 2015-16, the allotment formula is $28.38 per student, a reduction of 52 percent. If we had been allotted classroom supplies in 2015-16 using the 2008-09 formula, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools would have received an additional $1,655,300 of needed funding for classroom instructional supplies and materials.

Textbooks:  This allotment was renamed in 2015-16 to “Textbooks and Digital Resources.”  In 2008-09, the allotment formula for just textbooks was $67.15 per student. For 2015-16, the combined allotment formula is $29.05 per student (actually almost twice as high as the year before), a reduction of 57 percent. If we had been allotted textbook (and digital resources) funding in 2015-16 using the 2008-09 formula for just textbooks, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools would have received an additional $2,075,000 of needed funding for teachers’ instructional resources.

Non-Instructional Support:  This allotment provides funds for some school office clerical, custodians, and substitute teachers, all necessary costs to operate schools. The state allotment formula in 2008-09 was $273.71 per student. For 2015-16, the allotment formula is $240.94 per student, a reduction of 12 percent. If we had been allotted non-instructional support in 2015-16 using the 2008-09 formula, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools would have received an additional $1,785,000 of needed funding for school-based staffing. This is not the full reduction impact, since required matching health insurance and retirement costs have increased over 50 percent in that period of time.

Staff Development:  In 2008-09, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools received $312,216 in state funding for staff development under a rather complicated formula. No staff development funding is allotted for 2015-16.

In total, for the above seven allotment categories, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools would have received $13,521,500 in additional state funding if the 2008-09 state allotment formulas were still being funded. Since WS/FCS has 54,000 students, approximately 3.7 percent of the students in the state, if you gross up our numbers to statewide numbers, the total loss of funding is approximately $365.45 million. This loss of funding does not take into account the additional loss in positions and services due to mandatory increases in state matching health insurance and retirement costs.

To be fair, there have been a few allotment categories where the state funding formula has increased. The largest such increase has been for Children with Disabilities, where the funding per identified student has increased 15 percent since 2008-09. However, since that is a dollar allotment, and since the required matching health insurance and retirement combined costs have increased by over 50 percent, the real purchasing power for student services in even that allotment has decreased.


 

Here are the links to the articles in this series on funding our schools:

The direct causes of funding pressure on districts

Investing in leadership

Recommendations for funding for teaching assistants

Tensions around class size

Employee benefits

Kerry Crutchfield

Kerry Crutchfield has been the budget director for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools since 1981.