The 2015 incarnation of the BEP Review Committee has concluded its business and issued a report. What’s interesting is that this year’s report is missing something: Hundreds of millions of dollars of recommended improvements that the committee usually makes as a suggestion to the legislature in terms of how to improve funding for the state’s schools.
Instead, the recommendations include finishing out the work on fully-funding teacher insurance — paying for a full twelve months, some vague language about improving teacher salaries, and about $10 million for technology improvements. The total cost of these recommendations is $40 million.
Compare that to last year’s report, which recommended a number of improvements with a cost in excess of $500 million.
The report from last year noted recommendations that included:
Eliminate Cost Differential Factor (CDF) $(71,182,000)
Fund ELL Teachers 1:20 — COST: $28,709,000
Fund ELL Translators 1:200 COST: $2,866,000
CBER at 100% $(2,639,000)
Instructional Component at funded at 75% by State COST: $153,448,000
Insurance at 50% COST: $26,110,000
BEP 2.0 Fully Implemented COST: $133,910,000
Other Committee Requests
BEP Salary at $45,447 COST: $266,165,000
BEP Salary at $50,447 COST: $532,324,000
BEP Salary at Southeastern average $50,359 COST: $527,646,000
BEP Salary at State average (FY14) $50,116 COST: $514,703,000
The Committee last year also recommended:
Change funding ratio for psychologists from 1:2,500 to 1:500 $57,518,000
Change funding ratio for elementary counselors from 1:500 to 1:250 $39,409,000
Change funding ratio for secondary counselors from 1:350 to 1:250 $18,079,000
Change funding ratio for all counselors to 1:250 $57,497,000
Change Assistant Principal ratio to SACS standard $11,739,000
Change 7-12 funding ratios, including CTE, by 3 students $87,928,000
New BEP Component for Mentors (1:12 new professional positions) $17,670,000
Professional Development (1% of instructional salaries) $25,576,000
Change funding ratios for nurses from 1:3,000 to 1:1,500 $12,194,000
Change funding ratios for Technology Coordinators from 1:6,400 to 1:3,200 $4,150,000
Increase Funding for teacher materials and supplies by $100 $6,336,000
Instructional Technology Coordinator (1 per LEA) $5,268,000
12 Months Insurance $64,411,000
The 2013 Report made similar recommendations:
Component Change State Cost 12 months’ insurance $60,376,000
Increase funding ratio for psychologists from 1:2,500 to 1:500 $52,799,000
Increase funding ratio for elementary counselors from 1:500 to 1:250 $35,733,000
Increase funding ratio for all counselors to 1:250 $52,909,000
Fully implement BEP 2.0 $146,223,000
Raise Assistant Principal ratio to SACS standard $7,216,000
Reduce 7-12 ratios, including CTE, by 3 students $81,333,000
New BEP Component for Mentors (1:12 new professional positions) $14,333,000
Professional Development (1% of instructional salaries) $22,062,000
Reduce funding ratios for nurses from 1:3,000 to 1:1,500 $9,438,000
Reduce funding ratios for Technology Coordinators from 1:6,400 to 1:3,200 $1,756,000
Increase funding for teacher materials and supplies by $100 $3,655,000
Instructional Technology Coordinator (1 per LEA) $2,960,000
Capital Outlay Restored (done in FY14) – Total state cost of all recommendations $490,793,00
So, in 2013, the BEP Review Committee made recommendations costing nearly $500 million. That was there view on what would be an adequately funded BEP. Then, in 2014, the committee suggested improvements in excess of $500 million.
Now, in 2015, with the state facing lawsuits for inadequately funding its schools, the committee says everything is better and that with just $40 million in improvements, the BEP will be adequate.
It’s worth noting that the state continues to fund teacher salaries at well below actual rates. Adjusting the formula to provide local districts with teacher funding based on actual average salaries would cost more than $500 million. Even getting that number to just $45,000 per teacher would be $266 million.
The committee also has (historically) recognized that local schools need additional assistance in terms of school psychologists, nurses, professional development, counselors, and mentoring of teachers.
Suddenly, this year, the committee has decided these items are not priorities. They don’t even merit a mention in the BEP report, which at just 47 pages is among the shortest reports issued, and fully 1/3 the size of last year’s document.
Maybe if they don’t write down the needs of districts, those needs will go away. Or, maybe the attorneys for the school districts suing won’t find the earlier reports which consistently paint a clear picture of inadequately funded schools while also pointing the way to the steps necessary to improve the BEP formula.
Whatever the case, this year’s report comes up short. Legislators need only look to the very recent past to find the evidence our state’s schools deserve more than what current funding levels provide.
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