Public Education & School Finance Task Force
Frustration with the current school finance system was evident from all sides during the 2011 legislative session. School employee unions opposed legislative efforts to bring greater flexibility to school districts, and fought public education spending reductions that were demonstrably necessary in light of the budget shortfall that arose after many successive biennia of public education spending growth. While conservatives frequently argued that too much public education spending takes place outside the classroom, many of the legislators who supported the spending reductions expressed concern at how the school finance formulas would dictate the impact of the reductions on their local school districts.
Fundamentally, each of these frustrations has its roots in the state’s failure to adequately reform the school finance system in light of a succession of lawsuits in the 1990s and 2000s. The Public Education & School Finance Task Force will directly address the issues raised by these lawsuits, including a discussion of the state’s proper constitutional role in providing for an “efficient system of public free schools,” and whether funding could be clearly and decisively bifurcated between state and local responsibilities.
The Task Force will also study whether consideration should be given to a school funding mechanism that is both more appropriate for a modern public education system and more accessible to legislators, parents, teachers, and other interested parties. A barrier to effective reform is undoubtedly the complexity of the current system, which is poorly understood by most stakeholders.