Day 22 had more action on the House side with movement in the Ways and Means subcommittee HB 32 which is the $3000 tax credit for teachers in rural districts and for high need subject areas for about 1000 takers of the state’s lowest performing schools for up to a five year period. We shall see if this bill continues to move. HB 455 passed the House floor today. This bill allows the use of a 8 or less passenger vehicle which will be clearly marked as school transportation. It does contain a provision for local districts to opt in. So it is not a requirement in its current version. Obviously, there are some serious costs with opting into this type of transport including insurance, maintenance, and a replacement schedule which is not addressed in this bill. So, at this point that cost would be a local cost.
Day 23 saw the House Education Committee pass HB 60 vote count was 12-10. Apparently, the bill has the support of some of the House leadership since Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones attended the meeting and made the motion for the voucher bill to pass. That seemed to have an impact on some of the marginal votes. Testimony on both sides was heard but limited to 60 seconds. I appreciate those of you who communicated with your representative on the committee. It ultimately felt like the supporters were using very similar arguments that centered around local fund balances and Cares Act funding. The lack of understanding of why school districts carry fund balances was totally glossed over. We know that we need to have 3-4 months (some cases longer) of payroll in reserves due to the schedule that tax revenue is sent to districts. There is usually no local revenue coming in until later in the calendar year and to avoid a Tax Anticipation note our fund balances are relied upon to meet our payroll obligations to our employees. And obviously Cares Act funding is temporary funding and can be used to fill some funding gaps and also to be used for the pandemic response whether supporting virtual instruction and/or new expenses on PPE but not be relied upon long term. So, their talking points gave it an opportunistic theme.
SB 153 is scheduled to be heard in Senate Ed tomorrow and my read is that this will move through the committee with plenty of support. This is the Lt. Governor’s bill that reduces funding significantly to GOAL Academies. I was hopeful that there could be some negotiation concerning the multiplier but it appears that is a bigger hill to climb at the moment.
SB 51 Dexter Mosely Act (formally known as Tim Tebow) passed the Senate Floor. Student must be enrolled one segment or block at their local school. Home school students must be given opportunity to tryout but not guaranteed a spot on team or group.
SB 159 sister bill with similar language to HB 455. Alternate transport allowed for 8 or less passengers clearly marked as school transportation. Passed with no dissenting votes.
Unfortunately, I am quarantining due to my exposure to some legislators at the Capitol who tested positive earlier this week. I have mild symptoms as of Thursday and hopefully it will remain that way. I am able to communicate with my colleagues and legislators at the Capitol via phone, text, and Zoom. Although, I would prefer to be F2F but for now this will have to suffice. I hope I will be back in the fray by the middle of next week once I get a negative test result.
Friday, February 26, 2021, is legislative day 24.
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