BEP Review 10/23/06 (again)

My apologies for this recap: something happened to this week’s posts. The BEP Review was the important one, so the following is a recap of the meeting, replacing the original post from Oct. 23. Which just evaporated overnight.

Monday’s BEP Review Committee meeting was very long, with protracted discussions about adequacy (lacking a clear definition to everyone’s satisfaction at this point), equity, and whether the committee’s recommendations should be purely in the advocacy of education or should incorporate the Finance Commissioner’s request to delay a recommendation until one can be found that falls within the State’s fiscal guidelines – does this sound familiar?

Bill Nolan and Steve Jenkins were also in attendance from Oak Ridge, along with Dawn Robinson from Cleveland, and several other representatives of municipal school systems. I truly believe that having this constituency present makes a difference – Richard Kitzmiller of Kingsport is the only member of the committee who is a vocal advocate for municipal school systems, and it would be too easy for them to simply outvote him if not for an audience of affected systems.

Comptroller John Morgan was quite critical of the Peabody Alternative, pointing out that it would increase friction over annexation (but could it really get any worse?) and complicates the role of county IDB’s in offering tax incentives. The committee’s listing of positives and negatives for each option is here.

Many voiced discomfort in voting on a recommendation that day, as they’d just received more than a hundred pages of new information at the start of the meeting… it would be like us getting the budget at the beginning of a meeting, then voting on it in the same meeting with no time to study it. However, there were also a few (from the big city systems, of course) that were adamant that some recommendation be sent to the Legislature this year – before receiving Education Summit or the Gates Foundation input on defining adequacy, both of which are estimated to take 12-18 months.

The ultimate outcome of the day was :

  1. BEP Review committee will issue an “INTERIM ” report in response to the Legislative mandate of Nov. 1 that includes recommendations on ELL, AT Risk, Growth, etc. ( things they can agree on as immediate priority), and will continue to work, study and bring a final recommendation on System Level Capacity by Feb. 15th.
  2. They will meet again on Nov. 21 and continue today’s discussions about the pluses and minuses of the various models being considered. In addition John Morgan will bring his model to the table for discussion.
    There was evidence that some committee members are beginning to understand the need to identify “what is adequate” before we determine formulas for system level capacity.

  3. It was obvious that there was no way to take a vote today on system level capacity models, and that there was no consensus about what would be better at this point. So, in essence the motion was a delay for now, but it appeared that the committee is dedicated to bringing a recommendation on this issue during this legislative session. We will need to continue to work diligently to seek solutions that produce a win-win for all districts in the state.

Although this changes from one meeting to the next, it was my sense that they are now willing to give some serious thought to John Morgan’s proposal (which would be good for us, but would result in a net property tax increase for most areas).

The next meeting is scheduled during the week of Thanksgiving, when it’s likely that many fewer interested parties will be able to attend. I simply don’t trust them acting without strong representation from City school systems in the audience.

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