GUEST COLUMNIST: Governor should repay schools, invest more in education

by Jerry Hertaus

Dist. 33A State Rep

The Governor has stated time and again that budgets are about priorities.

One of the top stated priorities for both parties this legislative session has been increasing funding for K-12 education. Republicans and Democrats alike can agree that there are few things more important than ensuring a quality education for our children.

That’s why I was pleased when the majority introduced House File 01, the first bill of the session, aimed at paying back the money owed to our schools from the school shift passed in 2009. It was a stated priority, and introducing it as the first bill of the legislative session seemed to indicate a level of seriousness about paying back the school shift.

Upon the initial release of the Governor’s budget, I was disappointed to learn that the Governor’s plan fails to pay back the school shift until 2017. Since the release of the budget, the majority has dragged their feet and defeated motions that would have used the state’s cash reserves to pay back the money owed to our schools. Delaying shift payback to 2017 or later will add over $100 million dollars in interest to the balance we already owe, an unacceptable amount of money to put on the tab of the taxpayers.

If the Governor’s priority is indeed to improve K-12 education, we should be committed to making sure any increases in education dollars are dedicated to the area that makes the most impact on the results in the classroom, and closing the achievement gap. The current proposal is rife with unfunded mandates and new bureaucracies, such as the creation of a “school climate center” and new “regional centers” for the Department of Education.

Rather than wasting money on bloated bureaucracy, the Governor should look to increase per-pupil funding, and alleviate any of the unfunded mandates included in his education proposal. That’s the right thing to do for our schools, and the right thing to do for our children.