The state senate has approved a supplemental budget bill authorizing $513 million. Â This contrasts with the $693 million that the House of Representatives had approved earlier this month. Â A conference committee must now work out the differences.
The bills add more spending tied to a fiscal year where tax revenues through May fell well short of estimates used to build the fiscal 2023 state budget.
A key element of difference lies in $75 million for financial aid to schools largely related to the increase in special education costs to cover rate reimbursement increases to providers to districts. Â The House would not allow districts to receive additional supplemental aid if the district has not expended unobligated funding from ESSER (the federal Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Bill that provided stimulus funding for public education.
Though both chambers included $75 million to aid schools facing a sharp rise in special education costs, the House bill has a higher eligibility threshold and ties access to the funding to whether a district has already tapped available federal funds. Some of the federal funding may be retained in the district through the next fiscal year and many districts have some of the reserves still in hand. Â According to the governorâ€™s office, a significant portion of the $2.6 billion in ESSER funds were unspent as recently as four months ago and are being used to support FY 2024 budgets. Â The House would provide aid to districts where special education costs have risen 10% or more, a figure that the Senate cut to 5%.
As a result, some districts might not share at all in the $75 million supplemental budget if it is passed with or without restrictions.
MASC has urged legislatures to lift the restrictions noted above.
Conference committee deliberation will continue to resolve the education funding and other items unrelated to schools.