Local Control In The Cross-hairs Of Recently Introduced Education Bill
Boccieri says eleventh-hour legislation signals Republican education priorities in upcoming General Assembly
December 14, 2016
[ John A. Boccieri Home | John A. Boccieri Press ]

State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today expressed concerns over House Bill (HB) 628, legislation introduced yesterday despite the fact that the General Assembly has no additional session dates planned for the remainder of the year. The bill would replace locally levied school district property taxes with a statewide property tax, create a new system of school funding based on per pupil amounts and allow that money to be dedicated equally to students attending public and charter schools, and eliminate several scholarship programs, among other provisions. 

Rep. Boccieri voiced particular concern about a provision to create a statewide property tax for schools, forcing all local school district dollars to be sent to Columbus and placing all the power and control over education funding into the state’s hands. The move is a further erosion of local control, which the legislature has already been continually chipping away at over the last decade.

“Let’s be clear: this legislation won’t eliminate local property taxes, just require that school districts send them to Columbus,” Rep Boccieri said. “Over the last decade the legislature has continually changed the boundaries and lines by which schools have to operate, creating successes and failures. State elected officials have not delivered constant and steady leadership with respect to how schools are evaluated, funded and rebuilt. The shifting of standards creates a challenge of uncertainty for administrators, teachers, and principals alike as they try to understand what is coming next out of Columbus.”

Under HB 628, education funding would be allocated in a way that treats public and charter schools the same, despite their significant differences.

“Our local school districts, especially ones that are struggling or are located in rural areas, should be very concerned about this one-size-fits-all approach to education,” he said.

The bill would also eliminate the Autism Scholarship Program and Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program, among others.

Boccieri noted that he does like the fact that the bill, in its per pupil funding scheme, sets a price tag for what public education should cost in the state.

Other provisions of the bill include: a repeal of school district income taxes; requiring the Treasurer of State to issue general obligation bonds to refund certain school district debt obligations; eliminating the School Facilities Commission; eliminating the Educational Choice Scholarship Pilot Program and Pilot Project Scholarship Program; eliminating interdistrict open enrollment; requiring educational service centers to transport students on a countywide basis; and permitting school districts to enter into a memoranda of understanding for one district to manage another.

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