Monday, December 3, 2007

Education Finance Reform - Let The Study Begin!

Rep. Jeff Duncan picked to head Education Finance study committee

State Representative Jeff Duncan (Dist. 15 - Laurens/Newberry Counties) has been appointed as Chairman of the newly created Education Finance Act (EFA) Study Committee that is tasked with reviewing how our state funds education. The Committee is charged with thoroughly reviewing the state’s 30-year-old education funding formula, specifically, the Education Finance Act, Education Improvement Act and Education Accountability Act. In addition, the Committee will work to provide recommendations it deems appropriate to improve on our current system.

As Chairman, Duncan is slated to lead the bi-partisan committee through the process of looking at the formulas South Carolina uses to fund public education, how the money flows down to the districts, schools and teachers, and the categories or funnels through which this money flows. While South Carolina's system for school finance has many positive attributes, the system still suffers from substantial shortcomings that limit the ability of the state’s educators to use funding in ways that produce the best results for students, and especially for students who are most in need of academic improvement.

Currently, funds flow to the districts through 74 restrictive categorical programs, each with its own formula for allocation, criteria and prescription for use. “This is a landmark opportunity to have a positive influence on public education and our state itself,” Duncan said. “After 30 years, it is time that the state begins looking at the funding system, the spending restrictions placed on the districts and ways in which we can get more of the money allocated to public education down to where the rubber meets the road – in the schools and the classrooms.”

“My personal goals,” Duncan stated “would be to provide the maximum amount of flexibility for the districts in spending state dollars, allowing districts and schools to shift resources into initiatives and activities that can make a real difference for their students. The second goal would be to reduce and eliminate some of the burdensome accounting and reporting requirements now found in the EFA, EIA and EAA, possibly reducing some associated administrative costs.”

Speaker of the House, Bobby Harrell, appointed the members of the Committee and picked Duncan as its Chairman. “It is time for our state to review a funding formula that has not been looked at in over 30 years to determine if it reflects the goals and obligations our state has in respect to the education of our children,” Speaker Harrell said. “To ensure our children are given the proper tools to succeed, we need to make sure they have a system that is set up for success.”

Duncan has set the first organizational meeting for Monday, December 10th in Columbia, when the 15 members of the Committee will begin their work.