Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's 2 AM. And if it were 3 AM, it would be a lyric from a song by Matchbox 20, but beggars can't be choosers at this time of night. At the very least, evoking another lyric from a classic pop tune, we are "in the wee, wee hours of the morning."

The House and Senate have been hard at it since early evening. Both bodies convened at approximately 3 PM and starting working in earnest after a recess. Bills have been filtering onto the House floor ever since (as all of these bills must originate in the House), passing, and then proceeding to the Senate for final approval. The agreement struck between the Governor and legislative leadership stipulated that no amendments would be offered and that agreement has been honored.

Most of the bills, the bonding bill and the Legacy bill the exceptions, have passed on almost exact party-line votes. I have been surprised by the relative lack of speechifying, although the debate on the tax bill qualified as spicy.

The K-12 education finance and policy bill has now been posted and can be found at this link:

I breezed through it quickly and will give you the following highlights with a more in-depth analysis to follow tomorrow. Here are the most notable aspects of the bill:
  • $50 per pupil on the formula in each of the next two years. Stated purpose of the increase is to help school districts with increased borrowing costs that will result as the shift is increased to 60%/40%.
  • Special education funded at current law levels, with growth factors of 4.6% and 2.0% for the basic and excess cost formulas respectively.
  • Repeal of January 15th negotiating deadline and accompanying aid penalty.
  • Repeal of the Maintenance of Effort provision in the safe schools formula as it relates to counselors, school nurses, school social workers, and school counselors.
  • Suspension of the 2% staff development set-aside for the next two years.
  • Establishment of a small schools formula as part of the general education formula for districts with less than 1,000 students (Charter schools are not eligible to receive revenue under this proposal).
  • Establishment of a literacy aid program, with half of the aid based on third grade passage rates and half of the aid based on the growth rate between students' third and fourth grade scores.
  • Teacher and principal evaluation (the teacher evaluation is radically changed from what was contained in HF 934, the omnibus education finance bill passed during the regular session).
  • Increase in the career and technical levy.
There's a lot more here--the bill runs a full 141 pages--than I thought there would be when the larger budget deal was announced last week. I will go deeper into the bill tomorrow, but I wanted to provide readers with at least a cursory look at the bill tonight.

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