3-19-15 – After 200 years, School Spending Caps

Posted by John McClaughry

On March 17 the House Education Committee took a fatal step. On a vote of ten to one, it approved a measure that signaled the final death of local control as foreseen under Act 60.

The proposal is a three year cap to curb school spending until larger regional school systems can be established. It caps school district spending to either a 2 percent increase in school per-pupil spending rate on average, or a 2 percent increase in overall school spending. The legislation also contains a variable formula. Districts with lower than state average per pupil spending rates are rewarded under the formula and high spending districts face lower caps.

Since the beginning of time local school district voters have been allowed to approve budgets for their schools. Act 60 requires the state to pay out those budget amounts. Act 68 requires that residential property tax rates increase as spending increases over a state-set basic education amount.

The ink was scarcely dry on Act 60 when Gov. Dean offered the opinion that some way needed to be found to curb local school district spending. Gov. Douglas proposed, then abandoned, a spending cap idea. Now the legislature is taking the fatal plunge. Your school district can’t spend more than the state allows, even if you’re willing to raise the money yourself (disallowed by the Brigham decision).

This would be a historic step, toward finally ending local control over local school spending.

The unthinkable idea of the state distributing the money to parents to buy the education they want for their children, where public and independent schools compete for customers, is completely beyond the imagination of almost all legislators. If these caps are enacted, we’ll have a centrally controlled Big School System, like Hawaii. A true market oriented parental choice alternative will then have to wait until the One Big School System crashes down of its own weight – a generation from now.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ralph Colin March 20, 2015 at 10:17 pm

It may not take a generation to collapsed, John. I’d suggest that it might need just a five year period to accomplish the job.


john mendenhall March 21, 2015 at 2:25 am

10% increase in school budget last year and another 7.55% this year down here in Arlington. 18% of eligible voters determined that “it’s for the children”, while delinquencies have trippled and forclosures are steadily increasing faster than the sap runs in March.
It sure is “for the children”,the debt will encoumber not only the children but their children as well.


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