Schools for Equity in Education

– Legislative Update

We are now a month into the 2024 Legislative Session and things are starting to take shape.  The February budget forecast is now in the rearview mirror and funding targets for the various finance committees will be announced shortly.  It’s difficult to discern right now what targets will look like.  Even with the $1.3 billion improvement in the short-term state budget outlook, there will likely be reluctance to allocate that much of the new revenue to increased spending.

It goes without saying that any new revenue will likely take the shape of one-time money to either augment non-base programs initiated last session. Additional funding for the READ Act passed in 2023 is garnering a lot of attention as a possible landing spot for additional dollars.  In our conversations with legislators during our SEE Days on the Hill, superintendents and board members have been stressing the need for more money, more time, and greater flexibility in order to assure smooth implementation of the READ Act.  I believe the message is finding some traction and hopefully it will result in an infusion of one-time dollars to the program.  We will certainly know more once the Governor releases his funding bill, which should happen in the next week or so.

First things first, however.  The policy committee deadline is Friday, March 22, so the House and Senate Education Policy Committees will be assembling their bills this week in order to get them out by that date.  There are a couple of controversial items in the Governor’s policy bill, most notably the limitations on removing books from school and public libraries.  That has and will continue to generate a lot of discussion.

HF 3489, the compromise bill that would get school resource officers back in schools passed the House 124-8 last Monday and is now headed to the Senate floor after being recommended to pass by the Senate Finance Committee last Thursday.  The plan is to put the bill on the Senate floor this week, where it is expected to pass.  The Governor has pledged his support, so it is likely this issue will be put to bed either by the end of this week or early next week.

In the week ahead, the House Education Finance Committee will be hearing HF 4117 on Thursday.  HF 4117 would increase the local option revenue allowance for $724 per pupil to $920 per pupil and also allow districts to add their costs for unemployment insurance for hourly workers that took effect last year and costs related to paid family medical leave that will be taking effect to their local option revenue allowance.  The bill also seeks to increase the equalizing factor for both local option revenue and the operating referendum.  SEE’s platform includes both of these elements and strongly supports HF 4117.  Please contact your local legislators and express your support for HF 4117.  The 2023 omnibus education finance and policy bill provided significant resources to school districts, but gaps remain and the issue of property tax fairness has not been addressed in five years (and that improvement to the first-tier referendum equalizing factor was hardly significant).  While passage of HF 4117 this session would be welcome, it can at least lay the groundwork for an improvement during the budget session in 2025.

There are more SEE Days on the Hill planned for this week and I hope to see many of you there.  It’s a great chance to make her voice at the Capitol heard.

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