by JLF Staff
Date of Committee Meeting: Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 10:00 AM
The Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform met on January 31st. As a reminder, the task force is charged to study various weighted student formula funding models and develop a new funding model for the elementary and secondary public schools of North Carolina based on a weighted student formula.
The presentations are linked in each section, followed by questions and discussion. While reading these notes, please keep in mind that this is not an all-inclusive, verbatim outline. My notes are meant to capture the overall essence of the meeting, so some of the comments and questions are summarized.
Format of these notes: Question/comment by a committee member (unless otherwise specified)–>the answer (typically given by the presenter) follows the arrow
Full Agenda: Click here
All Committee Documents: Click here
Local Perspectives on Existing School Funding System and Recommendations on What Changes Should be Made and How the Changes Should Be Made
Katherine Joyce, North Carolina School Administrators Association
Full report: Click here
-Key lessons about weighted formula
-11 Recommendations for potential improvements that can be made within current resource allocation framework
Rep. Horn: Putting it mildly, report is not an easy read. Suggests that everyone read it.
Presentations by Superintendents
Dr. Stephen Fisher—Cleveland County Schools (Presentation)
Key priority: Post-secondary preparation
Flexibility is important to meet needs of schools and communities
Concern with capped allotments
Rep Blackwell: Lack of flexibility was mentioned as point of concern, but where are those ‘lacks’? –> Example in Cleveland Co. is teacher assistants and lack of flexibility
Rep. Blackwell: If you had flexibility over those items, what would you then be able to do that you couldn’t otherwise? –> Gives Superintendent opportunity to maximize resources in district and knowing that one size doesn’t fit all, especially in meeting needs of rural schools that need other resources.
Rep. Iler: Regarding flexibility, is that going to create a lack of funds in area from which funds were moved? –> Fair question, and with flexibility comes a lot of responsibility and accountability. Increased flexibility allows superintendent(s) to be more innovative, and assume responsibility.
Senator Tillman: I would give you total flexibility if I could, but then you have to assume full responsibility in allocating funds where they need to go. You would be held responsible for using money…for example, for TA’s, and not for teachers. It makes no sense for us to tell schools how they need to spend their money for textbooks, TAs, etc., especially when they are all different. –> One thing advocate for strongly along with flexibility are position allotments. There needs to be a site-based management for people in that district, zone, and school.
Senator Lee: You try to have all of your kids enrolled fully, but do you have a tracking system upon graduation? –> Ongoing issue for post-secondary; can track those enlisted, but difficulty in tracking them several years out. Working on it, and especially on long-term employment tracking.
Rep. Lambeth: What’s practical impact of allotment? –> At end of day, local dollars…take dollars from other programs…local appropriation for allotments.
Rep. Blackwell: Amen to sermon by Sen. Tillman. Flexibility is clearly the way to go. Handcuffing LEAs from Raleigh with particular pot of money isn’t helping students. In last interim, we had a special committee that presented on exceptional children’s problems with the cap. Would like to hear problems for LEAs caused by the cap. One criticism NCGA gets if we don’t tie your hands, by other super or teachers or principals, is that we aren’t spending money on certain things. One suggestion I’ve heard that could help is the idea that in local LEAs, we have online school-based finance reports that tell for each school, here’s what your allocations are for each item in the school, so each principal will know what he/she is getting in certain areas. Are you open to idea of developing school-based financial report for individual school? –> In addition, it is important for school districts to create teams to give input, which would better ensure meeting needs. Cleveland county spends time educating principals about their allotment. Really try to empower school-based leaders and try to allow them to make the decisions. Want to provide transparency.
Speaker Moore visited committee – excited for Superintendent of Cleveland County to be here today. Appreciate information he is providing during committee meeting.
Dr. Rob Jackson—Edenton-Chowan Schools (Presentation)
Focused on importance of local flexibility
Sen. Tillman: Thanks, and to reiterate number one priority – flexibility. ‘Two out of two, folks.’
Sen. Horner: How are local counties doing supplementing? –>In terms of state funding, one revision is taking money back and then giving it to charter schools. No charter schools in Chowan, but leave Chowan and go to others outside of Chowan.
Rep. Lambeth: Are revisions a variety of types from DPI? Example, please, other than charter schools –> Almost every allotment category is based on number of students. Revision that occurs at end of year…not sure why…seems to happen every year.
Rep. Iler: Regarding revisions, is reversion and revision the same thing (use ‘reversions’ with Community Colleges)? –> Functionally, yes, same thing. Revision term is now used rather than reversion. With revisions, utilize local money and move money around in our budget to make sure we cover those costs.
Rep. Iler: I think reversions in Community Colleges should be outlawed.
Rep. Dixon: This situation with 59 of these instances…I would think it isn’t a unique situation to your county alone. Perhaps he (Dr. Jackson) could give us insight look/study nature of 59 to see where responsibility lies in terms of being able to decrease that number. Good case study because it would be parallel across the state with other LEAs.
Rep. Horn: Ask staff to look into that for broader view of how and why these revisions are occurring –> (Dr. Jackson) would be more than happy to provide that information
Rep. Dixon: Info needs to come directly from Dr. Jackson.
Rep. Horn: Ok, can come straight from Dr. Jackson
Rep. Blackwell: Getting specifics (of 59), but guess is that there are revisions that DPI would also tell us about.
Dr. Tim Markley—New Hanover County Schools (Presentation)
Want to maintain position allotments with teachers
Rep. Blackwell: (Re: Page 8) Do you not get federal funds to fund those programs, or is it the duty of the state? –> We get federal funds, but they often times may have a dual function…also combining local and state funds.
Rep. Dixon: Want to expand the revision request analysis, and particularly from financial officer…recommendations on how to address it.
Rep. Iler: Goes back to one size doesn’t fit all…issue of consolidation comes up. Know that it’s heresy to some areas, but should think about where consolidation might make sense…while recognizing that bigger isn’t always best idea.
Rep. Iler: How many TAs also have other roles? –> Bus driver shortage, so may need to look at TAs coming in and help with that. All of New Hanover’s current TAs are full-time TAs.
Rep. Horn: Asked to explain revision/reversion –> Page 9 of report provides overview of allotment system. Speak to revision process…19 initial allotments are first allocations to school year. After, they undertake (DPI) series of revisions, including adjusting initial allotments to charter schools, reconciling, small reversions, position conversions, distributing carry-over funds, etc. In 2014-15, DPI made 50 different reversions to LEAs. $1.6B worth of revisions that year.
Rep. Dixon: No doubt that these kinds of situations can be explained. Dr. said 59 revisions, and that it can cause challenges. I am interested in reducing unnecessary challenges. Want to hear it directly from folks who have to deal with the challenges.
Jennifer Hoffman with staff: Want to clarify – about 92-95% of state funding goes out into initial allotment soon after budget is passed, so school districts have vast amount of funding in initial revision.
Rep. Blackwell: Know it’s a very small percentage with revisions. What portion are additional monies distributed as opposed to reduction?
Horn: (To Jennifer) Please include this (above) answer when you respond.
Senator Lee: Tracking the ‘cost’ on educating children on average and in categories? –> Average pupil per district and certain schools/programs. Cost varies, and don’t have numbers in front of me but can provide them.
Sen. Lee: Not really looking for numbers…cost factor is important, and we often measure what is spent rather than what it costs. Don’t think it’s the same thing. –> Average cost isn’t the same for every child. We put in more dollars per pupil in poorer areas. Differs in Title I schools as well.
Presentations by LEA Finance Officers
Jeff Hollamon—Onslow County Schools (presentation)
Norris Barger—Transylvania County Schools (Presentation)
Sen. Lee: 48 more children with disabilities than funded for. Cost? –> Don’t know, but can get that for you.
Sen. Lee: If easy to accumulate a trend line, could be interesting to look at LEA to look at costs vs. revenue/allotment system.
Carol Herndon—Rowan County Schools (Presentation)
Education is ticket to breaking poverty cycle in community
Senator Lee: Is it possible to develop a cost structure not based on revenue? Figure out the best way to educate our children, and then determine how much it would cost. –> Don’t currently track that, but intrigued by this question. Contingent on having alignment with strategy and to capture the costs. Will work on it. Regarding cost per student, measurement would help with emotional and tough decisions.
Rep. Dixon: Impressive to see high quality of folks working in NC’s education system. We understand it’s a challenge, but want to do the best we can. Would like to caution this task force and NCGA – sometimes, comparing something to the overall amount can lead to false conclusions. Saying revisions are a small portion of budget…something insignificant to a large ‘whole’ can be a very significant amount to a smaller group. Don’t want to fall into that trap.
Rep. Horn: Wants to know from committee who else they want to hear from via presentations
Leanne Winner, North Carolina School Boards Association (Presentation)
Rep. Dixon: Conclusion/recommendations are excellent. Has there been a task force in past 20 years like this? –> No, not a comprehensive look at all funding formulas like you all are doing.
Rep. Dixon: Are our efforts being well-received across state? –> Think people are watching…because nothing has happened yet. They want to see an episode later down the road with more excitement and action.
Rep. Dixon: In presentation, emphasized timeliness for LEAs to plan. What year was the one you referenced? –> I think 1998.
Rep. Dixon: So, prior to current majority? –> Yes
Rep. Iler: Recommendation about relationship between state and county commissioners…is anything in statute preventing a county from providing capital and current expense? –> (Staff) If they want to contribute more than they are, they are welcome to do so.
Rep. Iler: Regarding your charter school suggestion, would it be that direct funding come from county commissioners or state, or both? –> Both, and treat them like you treat LEAs
Rep. Horn: Long process, and a lot of people want to be heard. We will have to make decisions at some point, but not in the immediate future. Want to make sure we have as much information as possible. Encourage members of public and LEAs reach out to Chairmen on suggestions for who should be heard (what rock have we not looked under?). Still want to hear from Charter Schools.
Also see Carolina Journal’s article about this meeting: School funding task force highlights flexibility, accountability