Recently, I attended a meeting where the Our Schools Now initiative was presented with comments for and against it.
Basically, the initiative would restore some of the education funding level that has shrunk since 1996, restricting the share higher ed would get from the initiative increase to 15 percent. As usual, those opposed to the initiative exaggerated the cost to the majority of taxpayers. And the state auditor said he would increase salaries for teachers of math and science and special ed without increasing tax revenue.
What he didn’t say was doing that would, in effect, reduce teacher salaries for teachers of other needed subjects, and he assured everyone that none of the education fund revenue can be used for other state purposes, such as roads, which is totally false. The Legislature just allows higher ed to use more of the education fund, so more money is left in the general fund for roads and other state needs and less money is left for public education.
And the next day, I attended a short meeting with the Lt. Gov. where he expressed optimism about increased revenue for additional funding for schools, but then he expressed concern that the Legislature would move some of the available education funds around as I have just described it.Comment on this story
While the estimated $700 million the initiative would restore each year would be a great boost to public-education funding, it wouldn’t be enough to restore the funding level prior to 1996, and it would not fully solve the problems we are now experiencing in public education. The whole initiative process wouldn’t be necessary if the Legislature would take steps to restore funding for public education in a secure process, but that doesn’t appear to be in the books. So if the initiative becomes necessary, I hope it passes.