It has been a nice long hot dry break since the session ended in April, but the legislative cycle continues with the start of interim committees.
By Duaine Marxen
Hettinger County Extension
Thursday was the first Education Funding Committee which I chair. This committee was approved by the Legislative Assembly through HB 1318. If you remember during the session, I wrote about all the studies that was being asked for to talk about funding for k-12 education. HB 1318 was amended into one committee to look at all these issues that were brought up during this last session. We are charged to examine how state aid for elementary and secondary education is determined and distributed under the state aid funding formula, analyze the impact of the state aid provided through the funding formula, and consider potential necessary changes to the funding formula to ensure equity, adequacy, and sustainability. To start with we must remember the per pupil payment is $9646 but that is a combination of state and local share and it how the local share is determined is what causes the biggest concerns with our school. The formula has changed from a property generated to student generated with the relationship of adding property tax relief to the mix. Since about half our school districts are not growing or declining in their enrollments, every student lost has a great fiscal burden on the district. Schools that are growing in enrollments also complain because the state pays on last year’s enrollment numbers and school that see large amount on new kids don’t receive the additional money for one year. Another part of the formula that has raised some eyebrows is the deductions for in-lieu taxes and a significant portion of the local levy have been added to equalize funding. Things like revenue generated by transmission of power lines, pipelines, telecommunications tax revenue, credits from the states reimbursement of the homestead tax credit and disabled veterans’ tax credit are also deducted from a schools’ districts payments. Transportation, Distance Learning, Career and Tech Education and Regional Education Associations are areas of education that are not directly in the funding formula but do effect the amount of money schools received are also to be looked at. We will be trying to ways to make every aspect of education work together to complement each other rather than to compete. In the next few meeting we will spend a lot of time understanding the formula and to see how minor changes may help one school but also may have adverse effects on other schools. We will also try to get committee members familiar with the formal for schools in their districts. We have invited the Education Commission of State to compare North Dakotas funding formula with other state to see if there are improvements that might be suggested. As chairman of this committee, I have asked all presenters, agencies and stokeholds to bring their complaints to the committee, but they must also bring in solutions for there is no new money and any additional money we will have to rob Paul to pay Peter. So, we must find ways to do better with what we have to make improvements in education. Should be and interesting committee.
Duaine Marxen is the NDSU Extension Agent for Hettinger County. His office is in the county courthouse in Mott.