January 3, 2024
December's State Examiner covers five topics including:
- Legislative Issue Monitoring
- Statehouse News: Education Finance Policy
- State Budget and Finance Monitoring
- National Reports Impacting Education
- Advocacy Tips
Each topic includes a brief introduction. To read the full articles under each headline, click on the "+" sign next to the topic.
(For readers who prefer to print a version of the December 2023 State Examiner, please find the PDF here.)
The December 2023 State Examiner presents what is happening in statehouses around the country regarding funding for special education and special populations. Read more below.
The Role of State Government
The State Government is responsible for carrying out several important functions. Chief among them is the appropriation of resources to support the delivery of essential services like primary and secondary education. This is an authority vested in state legislatures, and legislatures across the country have been busy in 2023. According to data from the Education Commission of the States, 176 K-12 education finance bills were introduced and passed in the 2023 legislative session year. Of those bills, 31 (18%) were passed and enacted dealing with special populations including students with disabilities.
Finance Bills Introduced in 2023
Seventeen (17) states passed one measure (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming). Five states passed two bills each (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington). Nevada passed four (4) separate appropriations measures impacting special populations.
In Connecticut, for example, the budget included $25 million in additional Special Education funding in each year, $48 million in fiscal 2024 and $96 million in fiscal 2025 to continue the Education Cost Sharing formula phase-in and $150 million in fiscal 2025 for Education Finance Reform.
Similarly, the state of Nevada budget allocated $6.1 billion in fiscal 2024 and $6.3 billion in fiscal 2025 for K-12 education and fully funds the weights of the funding formula, increasing per pupil funding for English language learners, at-risk students, and gifted and talented students, while allocating an additional $23 million in special education funding.
Finance bills can also serve as vehicles for substantive policy changes. This was evident in both Michigan and Washington states as leading examples. In Michigan, Senate Bill 173 increased special education funding by $310.3 million. This substantial increase was due, in large part, to changing the calculation for special education cost estimates and reducing the amount of special education students’ foundation allowance counts towards special education costs. The budget also increased funding for economically disadvantaged students by $204.5 million by revising the opportunity index weights to range between an additional 35% to 47%. Lastly, the Michigan legislature increased funding for English language learners by approximately $13.3 million.
Likewise, Washington state made significant policy changes, via House Bill 1436, that increased special education excess cost multipliers in the state funding formula for preschool through age 21 beginning in the 2023-2024 school year. The weights were increased for K-21 students who spend at least 80% of the school day in the general education setting to 1.12; for K-21 students who spend less than 80% of the school day in general education setting to 1.06; and for pre-kindergarten students to 1.2. The bill also increased the enrollment limit from 13.5% to 15% of students who can be identified as special education. Importantly, the bill reduced the threshold for high-need individuals to access a special education “safety net” to 2.2 times the average per pupil expenditure for districts with more than 1,000 students and 2.0 times the average for districts with less than 1,000 students. These changes were estimated to increase special education funding by an additional $177 million from the state and $177 million from local districts in 2023 to 2025.
To view summaries of the bills acted upon in 2023 (enacted or vetoed only) compiled by ECS staff, and other education-related data, go to: https://www.ecs.org/state-education-policy-tracking/
For those measures that were adopted as part of annual or biennial state appropriations measures, readers can access budget summaries by state through the National Association of State Budget Officials (NASBO) at: https://www.nasbo.org/reports-data/summaries-proposed-enacted. This further review can often provide added, and important, context to K-12 funding decisions within the broader state appropriation process.
Other state government policy and fiscal resources to monitor education and education funding-related issues across the fifty states include the following:
- Pew Center - https://www.pewresearch.org/topic/other-topics/education/
- National Governors Association - https://www.nga.org/
In the Statehouse News: Education Finance and Policy please find representative examples (with links) of news items coming out of the states that may be of interest to ESAs. Read more below.
In the Statehouse News: Education Finance and Policy we find representative examples (with links) of news items coming out of the states that may be of interest to ESAs and their client schools and districts. Below is a representative sample of news coming out of the states or impacting the states that will be of interest to ESAs and their client schools and districts:
Court shows way forward for solving school funding. The Legislature should follow. New Hampshire Bulletin – 27 December 2023
For Arkansas charter schools, the grades are in — and they're nothing special Arkansas Times – 24 December 2023
Fight over school choice looms in Kansas Statehouse as districts implement open enrollment The Topeka Capital-Journal – 24 December 2023
COMMENTARY: A school reform plan to boost choice and public schools Las Vegas Review-Journal – 23 December 2023
Whitmer Announces $50 Million For After-School Programs in Michigan; U.P. Gets Two Grants Radio Results Network – 20 December 2023
Tennessee A-F letter grades are out: 1-in-4 schools could face action, audits The Tennessean – 21 December 2023
Virginia Department of Education debuts new licensure website for teachers | Nvdaily The Northern Virginia Daily – 19 December 2023
Elected vs. appointed? How FL school districts choose their superintendents can be messy Florida Phoenix – 19 December 2023
IARSS Names Gary Tipsord as First Executive Director - The Southland Journal The Southland Journal – 18 December 2023
Governor Hochul Announces $4.8 Million to Help Grow New York’s Teacher Workforce in Second Round of Teacher Residency Program Awards New York State – 19 December 2023
Reynolds Takes Aim at Iowa AEAs The Gazette – 15 December 2023
New law changes Michigan teacher evaluations | Education | abc12.com ABC12 – 7 December 2023
NYSUT joins Gov. Hochul, education advocates for major workforce development ... NYSUT – 7 December 2023
Teachers Unions, Micron and New York State Launch $4 Million Advanced Technology ... American Federation of Teachers – 7 December 2023
Biden-Harris Administration Announces $277 Million In Education Innovation and Research ... Department of Education – 5 December 2023
California faces big challenges to implement new math guidelines - Pleasanton Weekly Pleasanton Weekly – 4 December 2023
‘Science of Reading’ Reforms Show Student Gains in California, Study Finds EdWeek – 4 December 2023
Siouxland educators, state legislators talk educational savings accounts, teacher salaries, lawsuit Sioux City Journal- 2 December 2023
Michigan's new education department MiLEAP launches Friday; leader announced Chalkbeat – 1 December 2023
AESA monitors state-level budget and finance news impacting preschool and primary and secondary education. The latest news for December 2023 follows below.
AESA monitors state-level budget and finance news impacting preschool and primary and secondary education. The latest news for December 2023 follows below.
NASBO Examines Outcome of Ballot Measures in the 2023 General Election & Impact on State Budgets
The National Association of State Budget Officials, NASBO, analyzed statewide ballot initiatives in November 2023 and their impact on state budgets. Voters in five states considered twenty-eight ballot measures in the 2023 November general election. According to NASBO, this number of measures is typical for an off-year election and is significantly reduced from the 129 measures in thirty-six states on 2022 ballots. In Colorado and Texas, ballot initiatives that passed will impact preschool funding and the state teachers' retirement system, respectively. With next year being a presidential election, many more measures are planned. To learn more about 2023 and what to expect in the new year, go to: http://tinyurl.com/yx4uywsd
EdWeek Survey Sheds Light on How Schools and School Districts May Fill Gaps When ESSER Funds Expire.
While alternative funding might not fully cover the gaps left behind by ESSER, many districts have already identified alternative sources they’ll tap to pay for the expenses they have been covering in recent years with COVID relief dollars, according to a nationally representative survey of 250 district leaders conducted between September 27 and October 13, 2023, by the EdWeek Research Center. State per-pupil operating funds, local tax dollars, and federal Title 1 funding top the list of resources that districts will lean upon after September 30, 2024. Only 5% of respondents report no longer needing those activities funded with federal COVID relief revenue. For the full results go to: http://tinyurl.com/2yz44z4s
NASBO Report Finds States Experience Moderate Growth in Total State Spending as State Funds Increase and Federal Funds Decline
Each year, the National Association of State Budget Officials, NASBO, releases the State Expenditure Report. This annual report examines spending in the functional areas of state budgets: elementary and secondary education, higher education, public assistance, Medicaid, corrections, transportation, and "all other." It also includes data on capital spending by program area, as well as information on transportation fund revenue collections.
Overall, this year’s report found that in fiscal 2023, estimated total state spending (including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds) rose 6.5 percent, driven by increased spending from state funds (general funds and other state funds combined), while federal funds slightly declined (1.8 percent), although their levels remained elevated compared to pre-pandemic totals.
According to NASBO’s findings, state expenditures on K-12 education have been impacted by the changing needs brought on by the pandemic as well as the influx of additional federal aid in response to COVID-19. Elementary and secondary education total expenditures increased by 1.9 percent in the estimated fiscal 2023 and 6.9 percent in fiscal 2022. State funds for K-12 increased 6.0 percent in fiscal 2023 and 8.2 percent in fiscal 2022, while federal funds declined 11.5 percent in fiscal 2023 and grew 2.3 percent in fiscal 2022.
In fiscal 2023, total state spending across state governments was 40.7 percent higher than fiscal 2019’s pre-pandemic level, demonstrating the continued impact of federal COVID-19 aid and the recent growth in state tax collections.
To read the full report go to: http://tinyurl.com/2rn6ammn.
Readers can also download historical data by creating an account at: http://tinyurl.com/2nnspc65
This month's National Reports Impacting Education section highlights two reports from the National Center for Education Statistics, which are:
- Eight Percent of Public School Teachers Left Teaching in 2021, a Rate Unchanged Since Last Measured in 2012
- School Pulse Panel Finds 44% of Public School Students Began 2023-24 Behind Grade Level in at Least One Academic Subject
Find the report summaries below.
AESA monitors national reports highlighting state-level information of interest to ESAs. As always, it is important to view these reports through a critical lens with attention to research design, methodology, data sources and citations, and peer review and publication venue. The latest reports of interest are highlighted below:
Eight Percent of Public School Teachers Left Teaching in 2021, a Rate Unchanged Since Last Measured in 2012
Eight percent of teachers in public schools exited the profession between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, a pivotal time when K-12 education was heavily impacted by the pandemic according to a December 2023 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This departure rate was unchanged from nearly a decade earlier, according to the Teacher Follow-Up Survey, a longitudinal component of the National Teacher and Principal Survey. NCES is the statistical center within the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.
For those public and private school teachers who voluntarily left K-12 teaching after the 2020-21 year, a top rationale was to retire or receive retirement benefits. Public and private school teachers who left teaching after the 2020-21 year provided further insights on their new positions, such as how the work-life balance, autonomy, and prestige compared to teaching. Former teachers reported that the ability to balance personal life and work (66 percent), autonomy or control over their own work (60 percent), manageability of their workload (58 percent), and professional prestige (58 percent) were better in their new profession than in teaching.
To access the full 2021-22 Teacher Follow-up Survey data and technical documentation, go to: https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2023046
NCES School Pulse Panel Finds 44% of Public School Students Began the 2023-24 Year Behind Grade Level in at Least One Academic Subject
National Center for Education Statistic findings released in a December 14, 2023, news release are part of an experimental data product from the School Pulse Panel, NCES’s innovative approach to delivering timely information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on public K-12 schools in the U.S. The data, collected between October 10 and October 24 of this year, came from 1,421 participating public K-12 schools from every state and the District of Columbia.
This year’s data represents a five percentage-point decrease in the percentage estimated by principals at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. For the 2023-24 school year, the following types of public schools reported higher percentages of students behind grade level compared to the national average:
- Public schools with a student body made up of 76 percent or higher students of color (59 percent behind grade level)
- Public schools in high-poverty neighborhoods (56 percent behind grade level)
- Public schools in the western United States (53 percent behind grade level)
- Public schools in cities (53 percent behind grade level)
To address these challenges, 82% of public schools surveyed reported offering some type of tutoring program.
For more information and to read the full release go to: https://nces.ed.gov/whatsnew/press_releases/12_14_2023.asp
To access interactive data reports, go to: https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/spp/
The November 2023 edition of the State Examiner explored advocacy and the lobbying of state legislatures and offered six tips for effective advocacy. December's edition differentiates between advocacy and lobbying, assisting the membership in knowing the difference and offering direction on what tactics to use to maximize impact. Read the Advocacy Tips below.
Advocacy v. Lobbying: Knowing the Difference and Maximizing Impact
What is advocacy, and how is it different from lobbying? And what can, or can’t, Educational Service Agencies (ESAs) do as it relates to these two important strategies? The answer to these questions is relatively straightforward. But, as is often the case, it is nuanced, and lobbying laws can vary from state to state. The December AESA State Examiner seeks to bring clarity to an often misunderstood set of issues around this topic.
Advocacy and lobbying are both strategies used to influence public policy and decision-making, but they differ in their approach, scope, and legality.
Advocacy involves raising awareness and promoting a particular cause, often seeking to change public opinion and create social change. It encompasses a wide range of activities, such as public education campaigns, grassroots organizing, and media outreach. Advocates aim to create a supportive environment for their cause by engaging with the public, mobilizing supporters, and generating public discourse. Education and awareness building are at the heart of advocacy.
Lobbying, on the other hand, is a more focused, intentional, and direct approach to influencing action by government officials, legislators, or policymakers to support specific policies, legislation, or regulatory changes. Organizations, corporations, or interest groups often employ lobbyists like state education associations to communicate their interests to government decision-makers. This can involve providing information, research, and data to support their positions, as well as making persuasive arguments to sway the decision-making process in favor of their members or clients.
One key distinction between advocacy and lobbying lies in the level of involvement in the policymaking process. Advocacy is more encompassing, targets the broader public, and aims to change societal attitudes through education and awareness building. In contrast, lobbying operates within the realm of government and focuses on influencing outcomes either legislatively or via regulation. Advocacy is generally more open and inclusive, while lobbying can sometimes involve more behind-the-scenes efforts and interactions.
Legally, advocacy is protected under freedom of speech and expression, allowing individuals and groups to voice their opinions and concerns. Advocacy is a right protected under the 1st amendment of the United States Constitution, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Lobbying, however, often involves more direct interaction with government officials, which can lead to regulations and disclosure requirements to ensure transparency and prevent corruption. Every state has laws and regulations that define lobbying and set the guidelines and parameters that oversee this activity.
In Texas, for example, the Texas Ethics Commission defines lobbying as direct communication and preparation for direct communication with a member of the legislative or executive branch to influence legislation or administrative action. Texas Government Code Chapter 305, also known as the Texas Lobby Law, requires a person to register as a lobbyist after exceeding statutory threshold amounts of expenditures or compensation related to lobbying activities. More importantly, state agencies and Educational Service Centers (ESCs) in Texas are prohibited from funding or engaging in direct lobbying.
In instances like this, while direct lobbying by ESAs may be prohibited, advocacy becomes an important strategy, as do tactics like coalition building and leveraging cross-sector partnerships with those who can influence policy decisions directly. It is always important to consult legal counsel and the appropriate state agency regulating lobbying in one’s respective state to ensure compliance before engaging in such activity or hiring an independent lobbyist or firm.
Individuals and public organizations are not the only ones who have questions about what restrictions they may have related to lobbying. State associations and related nonprofits representing education interests are often confused about what they can or cannot do under federal and state laws without threatening their nonprofit status.
Nonprofit organizations, while primarily focused on serving charitable or social causes, can engage in lobbying activities to advocate for their missions and promote policy changes aligned with their objectives. However, some legal limitations and regulations guide the extent to which nonprofits can participate in lobbying without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.
In the United States, for example, nonprofit organizations are categorized as either 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or 501(c)(6) entities, each with different rules regarding lobbying. 501(c)(3) organizations, which include charitable and educational organizations, are subject to more stringent limitations on lobbying. 501(c)(3) organizations can engage in some level of lobbying but must adhere to specific restrictions to ensure that lobbying activities do not become their primary focus and do not jeopardize their tax-exempt status.
On the other hand, 501(c)(4) organizations, often known as social welfare organizations, have more flexibility in lobbying activities. 501(c)(4) organizations can engage in a substantial amount of lobbying if it is related to their social welfare mission. However, even 501(c)(4) organizations must be cautious not to engage in excessive lobbying, as this might still impact their tax status.
501(c)(6) organizations, inclusive of business leagues, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, and related organizations, may engage in lobbying that is germane to accomplishing its tax-exempt purpose without jeopardizing its exemption. However, if a 501(c)(6) engages in political and/or lobbying activities, it may need to notify members of dues used for such activities and track and report lobbying expenditures, including direct expenses and the value of staff time devoted to lobbying activities.
As is the case for public entities, nonprofits are wise to check with legal and financial counsel before embarking on lobbying campaigns.
For ESAs and the organizations that represent them, the distinction between advocacy and lobbying remains important as they work to strike a balance between advocating for change and complying with regulations that govern the ability to impact government decision-making. Understanding these two separate but related strategies is important to raising awareness and advancing policy priorities that drive change for students and schools.
SHARE YOUR ADVOCACY SUCCESS STORIES
AESA would like to highlight successful state-level advocacy campaigns. Share your triumphs in state advocacy with fellow members! Contribute to our newsletter by submitting your success stories – your experiences can enlighten and inspire others in navigating the often complex landscape of state advocacy. Together, we can amplify our collective knowledge for the benefit of the entire AESA membership. Send your stories to email@example.com.