Walking Wounded: Education Budgets Taking Shape Across NE

  • Governors, Legislators Seek Concessions From Labor
  • Deep Cuts Applied to Higher Education and Scholarship Programs
  • K-12 Treading Water After Losing Stimulus Funds

Connecticut

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s two-year plan to deal with a $3.2 billion deficit (in the first year alone) relies on significant concessions from labor to the tune of $1.5 billion. Unions gave Malloy strong support in his race for governor. The remaining portion of the deficit would be addressed through $750 million in program cuts and $1.5 billion in tax increases.

The General Assembly’s Finance and Appropriations Committees met with Malloy and reached agreement on the budget for FY12-FY13. Following the meeting, the Joint Appropriations Committee released its budget, which will be debated in the House in the coming week. The governor and legislative leaders still must finalize an agreement with labor. Malloy has said he expects to see a budget on May 6.

Higher Education

Malloy has proposed a two-year $144-million cut to public higher education. Also included in his budget is a plan to restructure the system, which features the following:

  • The boards of trustees for the Connecticut State University System, the community colleges, Charter Oak State College and the Board of Governors for Higher Education would be eliminated and replaced by a Board of Regents for Higher Education and one CEO.
  • The Regents would develop a strategic plan to increase Connecticut’s educational attainment with input from the public and stakeholders.
  • The Regents would develop a formula to distribute taxpayer support to campuses on the basis of enrollment, attainment of identified policy goals and other factors.
  • The Regents would issue annual reports on: student outcomes such as retention and graduation; allocation of resources; cost analysis of academic programs; an affordability index based on the median income of a family of four; enrollment and completion by program; transfer of college credits across institutions and a joint report with the Department of Labor on employment and earnings of graduates.

The Legislature is expected to support the plan despite reservations of several key lawmakers, who have expressed concern about costs savings and the separate and distinct missions of the institutions involved. Several legislators also question why the University of Connecticut is not part of the plan.

UConn is facing a deficit of $45 million, which includes a $25 million cut by Malloy. Tuition at UConn will increase by 2.5% for the next academic year, reflecting the rate of inflation; in-state students will pay $10,676 in tuition and fees and out-of-state students will pay $25,152.  A 2.5% increase will also be applied to tuition and fees at the four Connecticut State Universities. Meanwhile, an increase of nearly 3%  will raise tuition and fee rates at the Connecticut community colleges.

As part of his plan to reduce the state deficit, Malloy has put the $23.4 million Connecticut Independent College Scholarship Program on the chopping block. This comes at a time when cutbacks are slated for federal student aid programs including Pell Grants. Judith Greiman, president of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, said more than 1,500 Connecticut students will not receive grants next year, and more than 3,000 will not receive grants in the following year. College presidents of private institutions have indicated they cannot make up the difference for the loss of the program.

The governor’s plan also includes a provision that would take away collective bargaining rights of many college faculty. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, faculty who are department heads or who hold other decision-making posts would be reclassified as managerial employees, which would disqualify them to take part in collective bargaining as faculty members.

Pre-K-12

Malloy’s budget level-funds elementary and secondary education with a slight increase to early-childhood programs. Education officials are pleased that Malloy’s budget fills the gap created by the absence of $270 million in stimulus funds.

Despite Malloy’s proposals to eliminate and/or consolidate state agencies, Sen. Beth Bye has filed legislation that would create a new state agency to address the mix of early-childhood education and childcare programs. She proposes an agency similar to the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care to help eliminate the state’s overlapping child-care programs.

Malloy has increased funding for school-choice programs by $70 million in order to comply with the terms of Sheff vs. O’Neill, which requires the state to reduce racial isolation in Hartford’s public schools.

Maine

The Joint Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee continues to work on Gov. Paul LePage’s $6.1 billion spending package for the next two years. The spending plan is $300 million higher than the previous year.  Parts of the governor’s plan hinge on public employees, who are being asked to contribute 2% more of their salaries toward the state pension system, which currently has an unfunded liability of $4.4 billion. Also, the governor is asking that the retirement age for state employees be raised from 65 to 67.

Higher Education

LePage has level-funded the public higher education system in his budget. University of Maine officials, while expressing appreciation of how higher education is treated in the budget, will in all probability raise tuition by 4.5% for the coming academic year. Chancellor Richard Pattenaude says this would be the smallest increase in eight years. In 2009, tuition increased by 9.6%. The university must still deal with a $6 million deficit.

In his biennial report to the Maine Legislature, Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons called for an expansion of the system. Fitzsimmons noted that in fall 2010, the system turned away 5,300 qualified students because of a lack of capacity. He proposed a plan to increase capacity which includes expanding Southern Maine Community College to the former Brunswick Naval Air Station to eventually serve 2,000 students, and expanding Kennebec Valley Community College to the Good Will Hinckley campus, which would serve an additional 1,500 students. Fiztsimmons also mentioned “Accelerate ME,” a program that helps Maine adults complete their college degrees, and the Maine Community College System’s Rural Initiative which provides scholarships and degree programs to rural students as additional ways to access higher education.

K-12

LePage’s budget provides an increase of $23 million in state aid to K-12. However, $59 million in stimulus funds will be lost, so education funding will actually decrease by $36 million. Legislators are looking to change the Essential Programs and Services/EPS funding formula for K-12, which has hurt rural communities. More than 25 bills have been filed to change the formula for education funding.

Massachusetts

The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee released a $30.5 billion budget for FY12 on April 13. The spending plan features a controversial proposal to reform the process for setting municipal health insurance rates outside collective bargaining. House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a staunch supporter of labor, favors the reform crafted by Rep. Brian Dempsey, chair of the Ways and Means Committee. The plan is estimated to save municipalities approximately $100 million and is endorsed by the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

A report by the Boston Foundation cited health care costs in local budgets soaring to $1 billion from 2000 to 2007. That’s $300 million more than state aid to education during the same period. While wealthier school districts were able to make budget adjustments, poorer school districts were forced to cut books and teachers. This runs counter to the 1993 Education Reform that passed to equalize funding for all Massachusetts school districts.

The House proposal calls for local officials to set the premiums for health insurance plans. Municipal employees would have the right to bargain their share of the premiums. Municipalities would also have the option of joining the Group Insurance Commission. Employees of the Massachusetts public higher education system and all other state employees are part of the Group Insurance Commission, which sets rates and premiums for health insurance costs outside the collective bargaining process. Labor leaders view the House plan as an assault on public employees and have vowed to remove lawmakers who support the plan. The Massachusetts Teachers Association opposes the plan and supports a scaled-down version proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick.

Debate on the House budget is expected to run from Monday, April 25, through Friday, April 29. Senate President Therese Murray predicts the Senate will pass a local aid resolution, which agrees with the plan outlined in the House budget, and take up the budget in late May.

Higher Education

The House and the governor agreed on funding higher education at FY11 levels However, the system is short $61.5 million, which represents stimulus funds used in FY 11 that are no longer available. Campuses will receive 7.5% less in funding. Beginning in FY12, all campuses will be allowed to retain tuition from out-of-state students.

The University of Massachusetts and its campuses face a deficit of $54.5 million for the coming year. President Jack Wilson, who will step down after this year, has cut more than 500 faculty and administrative positions, reduced overtime and decreased energy and discretionary expenses. Wilson will also raise student fees. Current in-state tuition and mandatory fees at UMass Amherst are $11,732, Out-of-state tuition and mandatory fees are $23,628.

The state’s scholarship programs will be funded at $86.5 million, which represents a decrease of $3 million from FY11. The House budget includes an additional cut of $1.8 million.

Pre-K-12

The House budget agreed with the governor’s budget in funding pre-k–12. While local aid was reduced by $65 million, education aid to school districts was increased by $140 million.

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester is proposing to reward teachers and administrators when students show improvement on their MCAS scores. The plan would also mandate a course correction for teachers of students who underperform.  The Massachusetts Teachers Association takes issue with the idea that MCAS would be central in evaluating teacher performance.

Secretary of Education Paul Reville wants to examine how New Hampshire’s dropout rate fell after increasing the minimum dropout age from 16 to 18. Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire reported the rate fell to below 1% after raising the dropout age to 18. However, the New Hampshire House recently passed a bill restoring the dropout age to 16.

New Hampshire

The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony from Chancellor Edward MacKay and executives from the University System of New Hampshire who appeared before the committee to make their case for more state aid.

Gov. John Lynch cut the state appropriation to the University System of New Hampshire by 5%. The New Hampshire House went much further, cutting $31 million or 45% out of the budget for each fiscal year.

MacKay said the cut would have a dramatic impact on student aid. Cuts have also been made to the state’s scholarship programs. Lynch and the House agreed to eliminate the New Hampshire Postsecondary Education Commission and the state grant programs it administers.  MacKay said with federal programs being cut, there will be $6 million less for next year’s students.

The New Hampshire community colleges were cut in the House budget by $18.7 million over the next two years. Community college officials said this is the equivalent of closing two campuses. Enrollment has increased over 34% during the past three years.

Sen. Chuck Morse, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he’s not looking to cut as deeply as the House, but indicated there will be further cuts and warned higher education officials not to blame the Legislature for rising tuitions.

UNH President Mark Huddleston formed a task force to deal with a 45% or $31 million cut to the university’s budget by the New Hampshire House. Huddleston expects to eliminate 200 positions with layoffs, buyouts and not filling vacant positions. The task force is due to report on May 1 with a list of recommendations.

The university is also in the midst of negotiating faculty contracts. The faculty proposed a 12.5% salary increase over three years, while the administration countered with a 6.5% increase over three years. A “fact finder” recommended an 8.75% increase over three years with cuts to benefits. The faculty accepted the fact finder’s recommendation. But the University System’s executive board rejected the recommendation as unrealistic given the current fiscal climate.

K-12

State aid to local school districts was cut $8.7 million. An additional $7.9 million was cut from an aid program for severely disabled students.

Education officials are also sorting out the latest results from the New England Common Assessment Program. Based on the New England Common Assessment Program/NECAP, the state issues Adequate Yearly Program (AYP) reports for grades 3-8 and 11, combined with the 2009-10 NH-Alternate Assessment results for Grades 2-7 and 10, and the Class of 2010 graduation rate.

The New Hampshire Department of Education reports that of 469 school reports, 327 did not achieve Adequate Yearly Progress/AYP in one or more areas. Also, 14 high schools failed to meet the target of an 80% graduation rate. In subject areas, 197 schools achieved AYP in reading while 166 achieved AYP in mathematics. Those schools not making AYP for two consecutive years in the same area are designated as a School in Need of Improvement. Based on the new results, 60 schools are identified as new Schools in Need of Improvement.

Rhode Island

Speaker of the House Gordon Fox rejected Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s sales tax plan in its present form, saying the plan’s proposed 1% tax on water, home heating oil and manufactured supplies is “offensive.” Fox is willing to work with the Chafee administration to come up with an alternative plan.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed also rejected the Chafee plan and will explore other alternatives including spending cuts and consolidations. She specifically mentioned the elimination of the Rhode Island Office of Higher Education as an area where spending could be cut.

Higher Education

Chafee won praise from college and university officials for increasing funding for higher education by $10 million for FY12. The total funding for higher education is $154 million. But the officials say it won’t stop tuition and fees from going up especially after $40 million in funding cuts in prior years. At Rhode Island College, President Nancy Carriuolo said the college must still address a $4.6 million budget gap.

Chafee appointed and the Senate confirmed eight new members of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education. The Board has 13 members and all but one member will be replaced. The new chair is Lorne Adrain, a Providence businessman and philanthropist who replaces Judge Frank Caprio.

K-12

The Chafee budget provides $700 million for school districts for FY12. Rhode Island will also receive federal Race to the Top funds of $75 million. In testimony before the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee, Commissioner Deborah Gist said the proposed budget for Rhode Island schools supports her formula for education funding, which distributes funds based on the number of students enrolled. Gist reported Rhode Island students outperformed students in New Hampshire and Vermont in the New England Common Assessment Program for 2010. Gist also admitted there are areas where improvement is needed. Only 33% of high school students were found to be “proficient” in mathematics. Rhode Island’s graduation rate, which is approximately 75% statewide, is 60% or lower in some school districts, and Hispanic students in Rhode Island have the lowest achievement rates in the U.S.

Vermont

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $4.68 billion spending plan, and the full Senate will debate the budget on April 21.

Higher Education

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s budget level-funded the University of Vermont and the Vermont State Colleges for FY12. UVM and the state colleges are asking for an additional amount of $4.2 million which reflects stimulus funds that were applied to these budgets in FY11.

UVM is requesting $43.3 million. The Vermont State Colleges are requesting $24.8 million from House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

In making their case to the House and Senate Appropriations committees, UVM President Dan Fogel and VSC Chancellor Timothy Donovan cited the following:

Vermont State Colleges:

  • Full-time equivalent enrollment at all five institutions has gone up 56% over the past decade, and 114% at the Community College of Vermont.
  • 54% of VSC students are the first in their families to attend college.
  • 74% of VSC graduates stay in Vermont.
  • Of Vermont high school seniors who planned to attend college in-state, 18% were headed to VSC in 2000 and 25% in 2008, while UVM’s share remained about the same at 12%.

University of Vermont:

  • More than 29,000 UVM alumni—about 30% of all UVM graduates—live in Vermont.
  • UVM is the state’s fourth largest employer, with 3,800 employees.
  • UVM admitted 70% of its Vermont applicants, and of the Vermonters admitted, 40% enrolled.
  • Of the roughly 25,000 out-of-state students attending college in Vermont, UVM enrolls about 32%, VSC 9%, and private colleges, 59%

UVM trustees will consider a 5.8% increase in tuition when they meet in May. Currently in-state students pay $12,888 and out-of-state students pay $32,528. Fees are $1,894. The Vermont State Colleges have already voted to increase tuition rates for the coming academic year. In-state students will pay $8,568 and out-of-state students will pay $12,864. Fees are $899.

K-12

In announcing the results of the latest NECAP statewide tests, the Vermont Department of Education invited the students of Montgomery Elementary School and their teachers and principal to attend a press conference recognizing their achievement. Officials identified 14 schools across the state with high scores for all students, as well as students in poverty. Of the schools identified, Montgomery had the highest percentage of students in poverty (63%), but also had the highest overall percentage of students who scored “proficient” and above (92.9%), and the highest percentage of students in poverty who scored proficient and above (88.8%).

According to the U.S. Census of 2010, Montgomery Center, Vt., has a population of 1,201 residents. It is a short distance from Jay Peak Mountain, which is five miles from the Canadian border. Typically, low-income, economically disadvantaged students do not experience the same  academic success as their classmates. Montgomery’s students proved to be the exception.


Carolyn Morwick is a consultant at NEBHE and former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.



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