by Fred Jones // May 3, 2019
Last November the Southern Education Foundation (SEF) released a candidate comparison analysis showcasing the education policy differences between the two frontrunners vying for the governor’s office in each southern state. As an extension of the gubernatorial candidate analysis project, SEF recently reviewed the education budget proposals from eight governors in the South and conducted an equity analysis of their respective education budget proposals.
Why Focus on Governors’ Proposed Budgets
The state budget development process cannot be overstated. The most intrinsic duty of governors and state lawmakers is to debate on and pass a budget that funds state and local public programs. The unveiling of the budget proposal signals the official start of the negotiation process between the respective state legislature and governor’s office.
Additionally, roughly 90 percent of education funding comes from state and local revenue sources, and in many states, education is one of the largest budgetary items in the state budget. Governors drive state investment decisions in critical areas like education, and little can be advanced if programs or policies are not presented in a governor’s budget proposal.
Most states experienced strong revenue growth in fiscal 2018 and early fiscal 2019, resulting in more “new money” to spend on key priorities. In their budget proposals for fiscal 2020, governors directed a significant portion of these new resources into early education, K-12 funding formulas, teacher pay, school safety, and higher education. Below are some of the most common areas of investment, based on governors’ budgets released to date. The state examples provided are meant to be illustrative but not exhaustive.