Two overarching circumstances will shadow all education policy discussions in this new Legislature.
First is the state’s chronic inability to meet its mandate to fund 55% of the cost of education.
Ambitious from citizen-inception and, within a national recession, effectively a structural impossibility, this commitment is now beyond the reach of any debate.
Before revenues plummeted, the state generally claimed to be on track to reach 55%, first by re-grading the approach slope and then, additionally, by tinkering with the denominator, circumscribing the “cost of education” itself in ways that sometimes, as with the consolidation law, seemed baldly self-serving.
By 2008, the state, by its own terms, got within $100 million of funding 55% of what it calculates to be the cost of an “adequate” education. But, for the current year of FY2011, falling revenues have caused the Legislature to reduce support to schools by roughly $100 million. The resulting $200 million structural gap is not projected to improve in most imaginable futures.
The second circumstance is that three years of gormily-implemented consolidation mandates have left a bone-deep fatigue for anything that could be framed as a top-down, Augusta-initiated power play in educational policy, no matter how perfectly intended. Read more »