Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Perfect Storm

I don't get it!  I understand (I think) why the governor felt a need to call a special session but have to wonder why he chose to include 19 specific items (other than sunset legislation) in his call.  Legislators in the 85th proved incapable of coming to any sort of an agreement on many issues, thus the need according to the governor for a special session.  But 19 separate items?  How in the heck does he expect the legislature to be able to address these in the maximum 30 day time frame?  I guess we'll see.

But what are most troubling and confusing to me are the items that are focused on public education, including special education vouchers and a desired $1000 raise for each teacher in the state.  While a noble cause, who is going to pay for it?  During the just concluded session, there was an attempt to attach fiscal notes to legislation but that is apparently not even a consideration here, let alone a discussion topic.  And all of this is to be done on the backs of an already Supreme Court-defined underfunded school finance system.  Does "minimum constitutional requirements" not resonate with those supposedly elected to serve us?

I saw a quick analysis today that was a real eye opener for me.  Providing a $1000 raise per teacher (while certainly deserved) will cost districts upwards of $700M over the biennium and that's before adding the loadings that are incurred.  When you consider the additional costs to be incurred, that number likely goes north of $1B.  So I tried to figure the logic here, acknowledging that that may be my big mistake since there has been little logic in what has come out of the Senate as it relates to public education.  Many districts are losing their hold harmless funding and are now being asked to absorb the cost of these salary increases, and that's before even figuring the impact of what a special education voucher might mean financially to districts.

Talk about a perfect storm that plays right into the hands of the Lt. Governor.  He has not supported public education and now has a foundation as defined in the governor's call that validates his personal agenda.  It's truly sad that nowhere in all of this have the needs of more than 5 million public education students been considered.  When do we reach a point when legislators are focused on making education, the engine of a productive economy, a priority?  This should be a call to all of us to engage and start to think about how we change the makeup of the legislature in the next general election.  We need to make ourselves part of the solution to the perfect storm before it's too late.

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