It's been a busy few weeks at the Capital. We are now past the fiscal committee cutoff date. This means bills with fiscal impacts must be passed out of their respective fiscal committee or they are considered 'dead' for the legislative session. Bills necessary to implement the state budget are the exception to this rule. For the next few weeks, we will be spending a lot of time on the House floor as we vote on bills and send them over to the Senate for further consideration.
Creating an equitable education funding system
There's a war going on between the have's and the have not's and it's playing itself out in the education funding games happening at the Capitol. Here's the goal – we need to create a K-12 education funding system that is ample, equitable and accountable.
The majority in the House produced an $11 billion dollar blueprint of education investments, with no plan for how to pay for it. The lack of a funding mechanism is just one reason to vote against it. Here's the main one – it contains no meaningful local levy reform.
More than 30 years ago, the state began to allow local school districts to fund their school budgets from local levies. The main thrust of the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision is about this problem. School districts are paying too big a chunk of teacher salaries from local levies. With different populations and property values, some school districts are able to raise more money than others. It's the primary reason for the wildly varied levy rates and funding levels for districts across the state.
Here's the problem – if we create an education funding model without significant levy reform, we'll be blindly investing money into a system that continues to deny some children educational opportunities based on their zip code.
Seven amendments were offered on the House floor to improve House Bill 1843, all but one was rejected – including two focused on levy reform.
Watch my speech on the House floor about the need for levy reform by clicking here.
I was deeply disappointed to see the amendment rejected to increase the funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE) material costs. CTE is often overlooked as an answer to engaging students who don't typically respond to traditional learning environments. In fact, there is substantial evidence students enrolled in a 2-year CTE program during high school have a greater chance of graduating than those at an average high school. These programs encourage participation in career and technical organizations, increase academic motivation, college aspirations and employability.
What happens now?
House Republicans are working to provide solutions and collaborate on new ways to move forward. The Senate approved a plan earlier this month that does include significant levy reform. Now, with the passage of the House Democrats plan real negotiations can begin. We'll be working long days, and evenings, the next few weeks toward a final McCleary solution. Stay tuned.
Want more information on the seven amendments offered by House Republicans? Click here.
Telephone Town Hall
I'll be hosting a telephone town hall meeting for 19th District community members, Monday, March 20. The community conversation, which is similar to a call-in radio format, will begin at 6 p.m. and last an hour. I'll answer your questions and provide information on the 2017 legislative session. To participate call (360) 682-3579. Once connected, you can listen-in and press * (star) on your telephone keypad to ask questions.
Helping our communities is a team effort
As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments and concerns. If you have an idea for how state government can work better, please contact me. My door is always open. You can reach me by email at email@example.com, or call my office at (360) 786-7806.