The House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee held a public hearing this week on a House Republican proposal called Fund Education First. The idea is to create a new, separate K-12 education budget that would be required to pass the Legislature before any other spending bills. The measure, which has been introduced by House Republicans each biennium since 2006, also seeks to comply with a recent state Supreme Court decision by fully funding education.
“At some point, saying education is our top priority as a state has to move beyond just words and be reflected in our actions,” said Kretz, R-Wauconda. “If it is truly the state’s paramount duty – and we believe it is – then it should be reflected in our priorities not gambled on by trying to take more money from taxpayers at the ballot box. We’ve introduced legislation for several years to make education a top priority in our budgeting process but it’s always been shot down by the majority party in Olympia. Hopefully, with the court’s recent ruling, we’ll see some more support for this proposal from across the aisle.”
“Throughout our state’s budget problems of the last few years, the Legislature and the governor have yet to engage in any kind of ‘priorities of government’ process,” said Short, R-Addy. “By establishing a separate education budget that is required to be enacted before any other money is spent by the Legislature, we’re showing the court and the public that we’re serious about funding our priorities.”
The proposal, House Bill 2533, currently has bipartisan support. If implemented, it would:
* require K-12 education funding be made in separate legislation from the operating budget;
* require all funding for K-12 education be enacted into law before either chamber of the Legislature takes executive action on other budget legislation; and
* take effect immediately and would apply to the supplemental budget currently being negotiated.
Short, who serves on the committee, said the concept of funding education first is receiving more and more support from school board members, superintendents, parents and teachers.
“There was a lot of support for this idea in committee. The testimony from the education folks was very positive and they support this concept,” said Short. “I’m not sure the majority party leadership likes the idea – we’ve been given no indication that they’re going to let this bill come up for a vote in committee. But I’d sure like to see this thing pass to the House floor so that Representatives from all over the state would have the opportunity to debate the issue and vote on it.”
Kretz said the idea of a separate education budget is very similar to the current practice of having separate capital and transportation budgets.
“Olympia can be a very ‘process-oriented’ place. People here don’t like change. As soon as you suggest changing the status quo, it gets folks all riled up and people start getting nervous,” said Kretz, who also serves as the Deputy Leader for House Republicans. “But I think it’s important to show that this is possible – that there is a process to follow that’s already in place – and if we’re really serious about educating our children, let’s put our money where our mouth is and prioritize it in the budgeting process.”
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