Yesterday, I attended the Education Funding Improvement Commission Meeting #4. It was held in Dover at 9:00. Former State Representative Scott, who is chairing this committee, thought the timeline which was placed on the commission was very tight. The commission report is due in March. He asked the members if they were in favor of adding additional time so the committee could continue to meet –the committee members present all agreed. One member of the commission, did express that the time of day that they hold these meetings are not convenient for parents and educators. She requested that they hold the next meeting at night.
I am not sure where the commission is heading. There is a great divide with its members. One group of members want to throw out the unit count system completely and the other group of members want to keep the unit count and modify it.
The meetings that I have attended have been more about presenting information then actual discussion. I am not against presentations, it is important to educate members on the issues. My concern is everyone in the room already knows where they stand on the issue. They really need to open up the discussion and figure out which direction are they going to take –removing the unit count completely or keeping it and add weighted funding to it. Once the members decide on this, I believe the members will be able to recommend what needs to be done.
The first presentation was given by Rep. Bambauch and David Blowman. Rep. Bambauch had been working with the Department of Education on this issue for the last year. The Department of Education hired a consultant they had been working with to do the research. The group that prepared the report was Hanover Research. This group only provided data and no recommendations –I had a hard time dissecting the report.
Rep. Bambauch and David Blowman presented a traditional weighted funding model –both of them believe the unit count system needs to be removed and replaced with a weighted formula. Rep. Bambauch commented that the funding system is broken and that funding needs to be fairly distributed throughout the state. Each school would receive a budget and the school principals would have a salary cap (hiring teachers/staff) in place at their schools. He does not believe teachers will be against this. He believes the most important thing teachers want are the necessary resources in place at their schools.
The next presentation was Dr. Marguerite Roza, from Georgetown University, she presented an equitable funding model. She focused on four reasons to change the formula: provide equity for students, delivery models are changing and the formula must not stand in the way, simple and transparent, and be outcome focused. Her recommendations were to allocate funds per pupil, ensure funds are flexible, restructure equalization, and build a transparent system.
The next step, in my opinion, should be a vote to see where the members are with the direction of this committee. I am getting the impression there is an agenda in place that not all members of the committee have seen. There seems to be a push for removing the unit count completely and replacing it with one of the models that have been presented over the last few meetings. A letter was drafted by some committee members expressing their concerns about the direction of the committee.
I did make a public comment at the end of the meeting. I suggested that they have more dialogue among the committee members instead of presentations. If they could make sure the Education Funding Improvement Commission website has the meeting dates listed. On their website for yesterday’s meeting it listed the February meeting was “To Be Determined”. I expressed support for the unit count system but adding weighted student funding for ELL, poverty and basic special education kindergarten through 3rd grades.
Below, is a link to information and presentations associated with this commission. The next meeting will be held sometime in March.