More people contacted me about education issues than any other subject. In the 1990’s the state committed to funding approximately two thirds of K-12 public education. The remaining cost is mostly funded through local property taxes. To help control property taxes, the state caps the revenue a school district may raise from property taxes. And, a district can avoid going to an arbitration procedure by offering employees a Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) of at least 3.8 percent annual increase in compensation.
This budget makes a number of changes that will impact education financing. First, the budget falls well short of meeting the state’s two thirds school funding commitment, ending the two year cycle at 62.6%.
Second, a budget provision eliminates the QEO but keeps in place revenue caps on districts. School administrators and school board members contacted me to express their concern with this provision because it makes school district budgeting very difficult. A majority of people who responded to a poll on my website agree, saying the QEO should stay until our school financing system is overhauled (61% yes, 25% no, 14% undecided).
The budget does contain provisions of help to some rural schools. It increases the amount of “sparsity aid” rural districts can receive if they meet population density criteria. It also provides a “hold harmless” provision to smooth the impact on small schools that experience declining enrollment.
On balance, I agree with the many people, including school administrators, school board members, teachers, parents, concerned citizens and students that this budget makes our already unworkable school financing system even more unworkable.