The School Finance Working Group met remotely Thursday, May 21, 4-5:30 p.m.
The agenda included looking at some funding streams that are not equally available to all school districts. The topics addressed were teacher development and evaluation (TDE), Q Comp and early childhood.
Q Comp funding was the first topic addressed. Q Comp consists of state funding ($169 per student) and a local levy (up to $91 per student) authority. Currently, one third of the school districts receive Q Comp funding, most of which are located in the metro area. The North Branch School District highlighted the value and positive impact of Q Comp program and how the funding has allowed their district to create a professional learning community (PLC) structure, increased leadership capacity and innovation in their district.
The second topic addressed was the early childhood programs throughout the state. There are eight different programs with different funding mechanisms and program qualifications throughout the state, which contributes to a complex system for districts and parents to effectively navigate. One moment of clarity was the reality that 4,000 early learners participating in EVPK program will not continue without funding from the State in the next biennium. Given the projected budget deficit this may leave many districts and students without a program.
The meeting concluded with small virtual breakout discussions leading to a large group discussion. There was agreement among members that the group is at a point where they need to decide how to proceed. The question was asked, do they ignore the budget projection and move forward with funding reforms or anticipate the deficit and make recommendations on how to proceed based on those projections. There was consensus that the Commissioner would need to weigh in as they reassess the mission of the work group. A poll will be sent out members of the work group to gauge how members want to move forward. Is this a time to refocus and possibly redirect the energy of the work group? If so, one suggestion is to assess distance learning with a focus on how to make up for lost time learning for disadvantage students.
The next meeting will be June 4 and they will focus on the area of the Long-term Facilities Maintenance Formula (LTMF) and possibly the transportation formula. The other scheduled dates are: June 18, July 16 and July 30.