TEA Legislative Appropriations Request
The 2014-15 Legislative Appropriations Request for the Texas Education Agency was released late last week and the subject of discussion of a hearing before the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) this week.
The document's Administrator's Statement explains that state law has as an objective that student performance in Texas rank among the top ten states in terms of college readiness. (TEC §39.053(f)(1))
Accordingly, all exceptional items requested by the agency above and beyond its baseline budget have their foundation and context in making Texas a top ten state, or in complying with current law. The baseline budget represents current spending plus funds for enrollment growth.
As a reminder, the exceptional items requested by the Texas Education Agency are as follows:
$220 million for instructional materials;
$22.1 million to fully fund the implementation of the state's accountability system;
$5.2 million for the Texas Student Data System;
$2.1 million to support the Educator Certification Online System; and
$1 million to enhance test security and investigation capabilities.
What is perhaps more notable than what was requested is what wasn't requested. The agency is not requesting that the August Foundation School payment that will occur in September be moved back into August.
The appropriations request also does not request any funds to restore ASATR, eliminate the regular program adjustment factor, or restore any pre-kindergarten grant programs. In short, the request moves forward the status quo without championing any adjustments to school resources, be it restoration of funds cut last session, restoration of lost grant programs, or any adjustment related to inflation.
The request also spoke about how the federal Budget Control Act of 2011 is expected to impact schools if it takes full effect. Specifically with regard to sequestration, which is occurring as a result of Congress failing to agree on cuts. The request states that "unless Congress takes action by January 2, 2013, all federal grants administered by TEA may be reduced. USDE has indicated its plan to not impact the majority of federal education grants in the middle of the 2012-13 school year should sequestration occur. Rather, based on an expectation of a similar federal appropriation from Congress as in past years, USDE plans to take any reductions in the 2013-14 school year from the grant funding to be released July 1, 2013."
In short, TEA's LAR is a document meant to move the funding process forward under the "new normal" created by funding cuts.
This may be the result of timing, namely, this is a process that began under commissioner Robert Scott, continued under deputy commissioner Todd Webster, and essentially was produced within the first two weeks of commissioner Michael Williams' assumption of his post.
TEA staff revealed at the LBB hearing that they expect to amend their request because, while Williams was quite active in determining the agency's request, there is a steep learning curve and the commissioner reserves the right to adjust the request.