Friday, March 25, 2016

Education a few items from this session

There were dozens of bills ran this last session that would impact education. I tried to get information from both sides and make the best decision I could. One of the best sources this year was Patti Harrington with the USBA. Her emails were specific and the timing was specific as well.  Her group gave me a 75% for 12 of 16 bills matching their position. Their group didn't match some of the other voices on public education. Some of the best sources I have for education bills are town hall meetings and knocking on teacher's doors at their home.

I sponsored HB 152. Angela Stallings from the office of the State School Board, pointed out to me at one of the USBA meetings I attended that no one was fixing the $25 Million formulation error from last years $75 Million property tax increase. I voted against the new tax, but $25 Million could not be paid out to the local districts without the bill. The $25 Million was an expensive table decoration. Working with my Senate Sponsor Sen. Hillyard, the language from HB 152 was added to HB 1, the main base budget bill for Public Ed that had over $4 Billion in funding. That was signed by the Governor during the session, so I took HB 152 and sent it back to rules.

State School Board Elections. In 2011 I was a key vote missing to go to partisan elections that year. My State School Board member could not have run again if it passed because of the Hatch Act. This year, I voted for both options including a primary non partisan like the city mayor elections. That bill got stuck in the Senate. I then voted for the one that would have a primary non partisan like the city mayor this year and a primary like the county mayor next year. The Governor had decided he wasn't doing the committee selection anymore based on a judge's opinion.  We needed to change it this year and that was the only bill that would pass both houses. We tried to go head to head last year with the senate and got nothing again. This year we have something better than we had. It isn't perfect, but better than doing nothing again.

WPU. I fought to have approx. $15 Million moved from Higher Ed to Public Ed to get the WPU up to 3% increase. They had it at approx. 2.4% increase right up to the end of the session. I am on the Higher Ed appropriation subcommittee, so I didn't have direct control. It did end up at a 3% increase. We also funded $90 Million for new students and overall increased Pub Ed by about $1/4 Billion.

SB 38. It was a mess. It would have reportedly taken recreation money from Public Ed and given it to the Charter Schools. We want both public education systems to win. We passed a better compromise from Rep. Powell in the House and got it to replace SB 38, so Rep. Powell's bill language passed both Houses in that bill. It will have the 25% and 75% Charter/District Funding show up on the tax notices for the first time so people can see what is going to the Charter Schools from their property taxes. We had tried to do that in the past but it always was going to create a tax increase. This one is designed not to create a new tax.