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Home > MSMA News > Commission priorities include help for disadvantaged and pre-K – November 29, 2016

Commission priorities include help for disadvantaged and pre-K – November 29, 2016

Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on school funding discussed priorities Monday and reached general consensus around the need to close the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students and support pre-kindergarten programs.

Commission Chairman Robert Hasson said his goal was to have some recommendations ready for a report back to the new Legislature in January. The commission is authorized to work through this year and next, with a second report back due to the Legislature in January of 2018.

The group agreed to a general goal of reducing achievement gaps that were tied to economic disadvantage, but differed on the details.

Some supported a proposal presented by former DOE Commissioner Jim Rier at an earlier meeting to increase the amount allocated to districts for disadvantaged students under the Essential Programs and Services funding formula. Currently districts are allocated an additional 15 percent.

Rier’s recommendation would increase allocations based on the percentage of disadvantaged students in the district:

  • Up to 40 percent disadvantaged would get the current 15 percent
  • 40 to 60 percent would receive a 20 percent increase
  • Above 60 percent would receive 25 percent

Senator Justin Alfond, D-Cumberland, a member of the commission, said he would like to increase the allocation for disadvantaged students by the same amount for all districts, rather than follow Rier’s sliding scale.

“Every school needs to get a bump,” he said, adding that it would make the increase more politically viable for legislators from across the state. Any change to the EPS funding formula would require legislative approval.

There also was a suggestion to get rid of the so-called Labor Market Area adjustment that takes into account what school districts are paying for teacher salaries when figuring the basic per-pupil allocation under EPS.

Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford, said he would like to see one per-student amount statewide rather than giving more to districts that can afford to pay higher teacher salaries. The LMA adjustment has long been criticized by rural districts because, they argue, it makes it more difficult for them to raise salaries since their per-pupil state allocation is less.  Stearns, a former superintendent and member of the Education Committee, was sitting in for commission member, Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, the House minority leader.

There also was support on the commission for increasing pre-kindergarten programs, which several members pointed out would help economically disadvantaged students.

On the other end of the age spectrum, the commission spent much of its morning learning about early college initiatives in both the University and Community College Systems.

Early college programs help high school students see that higher education is both academically and financially feasible, commission members were told.  Both University Chancellor James Page and Community College President Derek Langhauser, who serve on the commission, said the key is consistent state funding to help offset tuition for the programs.

The Blue Ribbon Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 12 in Room 103 of the Cross Office Building, next to the Statehouse. That meeting will be dedicated to working on the commission’s legislative report.

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