During the 2006 legislative session, a new three-year school finance plan was adopted. Adoption of this plan lifted the state from the burden placed upon it as a result of the Montoy school finance lawsuit which found that the state had failed to meet its constitutional duty to provide suitable finance for public education.
The three year plan adopted included several important reforms:
- It focused resources where they were most needed; especially on at-risk students.
- By virtue of providing funding for three successive school years, it established the ability of school districts to make budget decisions and plan for upcoming years.
- It represented the most significant increase in state funding for public schools since 1992.
- It established – at least for the 2009-10 school year – that funding should increase by no less than the Consumer Price Index – Urban.
In 2008, the Legislature reaffirmed a commitment to long range funding by passing a fourth year funding increase to ensure additional funds for the 2009-10 school year.
In 2009, however, the Legislature acted quickly to reverse the fourth year funding passed in 2008. In addition, a series of funding cuts were made that brought state funding of public education down nearly to the 2006 level.
KNEA believes that the Legislature must not return to the days when the annual increase in public school funding typically was an additional $50 in base state aid per pupil. It is that practice that directly led to the inadequate and inequitable funding formula found to be unconstitutional under Montoy.
While we have argued that the CPI-U is not the appropriate measure of inflation for an institution that purchases primarily services as opposed to goods, the idea was an appropriate one. The Legislature was committing itself to at least meeting the increased costs due to inflation.
We believe therefore that the Legislature, in providing for public school funding, must seek to restore the funds lost due to the recession as quickly as possible. While stimulus funds can and should be part of this effort, it is critical that the legislature recognize the temporary nature of these funds and work to find revenue solutions that allow the state to replace the stimulus funds and continue to meet the level of funding called for in the LPA study on school finance.
1. The restoration of funds lost due to the recession as rapidly as possible.
2. The development and adoption of an inflation measure appropriate to public education on which to base annual increases in funding.
3. Annual adjustments in funding levels to reflect changes in educational costs over time, and allow all districts to recruit and retain competent, caring and qualified teachers and school leaders and meet operating costs.
4. Additional funding increases that allow school districts to increase teacher compensation to the national average over a period of not more than five years.
5. The distribution of funds in such a way as to provide flexibility to use funding increases to meet the needs of local school districts through local budget development and collective bargaining.
6. Full funding of the excess costs of special education.
7. Full funding of early childhood and all-day kindergarten programs.
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