And in what might be considered a mild upset, discussion largely steered clear of the vigorous "who cut education funding" debate that's been one of the dominant themes of the current gubernatorial campaign to date.
Most of the
The commission was established by law in June to make recommendations on retooling the state's main school funding formula, which this year will drive more than
Its recommendations are not due until next June.
But there were hints at some of the pivot points for the year-long discussion to come. Here's a few observations for students, parents, teachers and taxpayers to keep in mind as the discussion goes forward:
What defines wealth?
But the definition of wealth is currently skewed more heavily toward property valuations. Some say personal incomes are a better barometer of how much more a given school district should expect its residents to pay.
At least one Democrat, one Republican and one education establishment voice all signalled early interest Wednesday in basing future aid formulas more on residents' income streams.
There have been cities,
On its face, "It (income) seems to be probably the cleanest indication of the cash flow available for paying taxes," Sen.
Paying for teachers, not students?
Browne and others also suggested discussion on transferring the existing funding formula's emphasis on student enrollments to a new paradigm: the "teacher unit."
The thinking goes like this:
If a school has a classroom of 27 students and it gets six new kids, now all of a sudden, administrators there may say they need to staff a second classroom. That's a new cost center, requiring a new teacher and, likely, a boost in aid.
"At least financially it makes sense to ask, if your district gains six students and they can be accommodated in the existing cost center (the classroom), is it necessary to have additional funding," Browne said.
"But if they gain enough students that they have to build additional capacity" and hire a new teacher, then maybe that should become the trigger point for an increase in state aid.
Once paid, always paid?
Under the state's traditional "hold harmless" provision, districts -- even those with steadily declining enrollments -- don't get cuts in basic education subsidies.
That's been a bone of contention for many lawmakers, like those in
Commission members stated their desire to revisit this issue at an organizational meeting last month.
Oberlander noted in many rural communities, schools double as community centers. So even as student enrollment declines, districts depend on a stable state funding to help pay the fixed costs required to keep a building operational.
"I will guard against a new formula that hurts districts that have justifiably relied on the hold harmless provision," she said.
Senate Democrat delegate
A survey of school administrators on funding issues introduced by the
What governor's race?
On this day anyway, commission members seemed eager to steer clear of the election-year rhetoric dominating the school funding issue.
Republicans and Democrats seemed to work hard to agree to disagree on the issue of whether Gov.
"That's the purpose of this commission," Acting Secretary of Education
The commission's proposals are non-binding, but are expected to receive serious consideration in a state where school funding has been a problem issue for many years.
Browne said the bipartisan commission is tentatively scheduled to meet next on
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