The Blended 1A/1B Compromise [Sidebar]

(from Maine Townsman, May 2004)

1. Establish the Essential Programs and Services school funding model (EPS) as the measure of K-12 education spending upon which the state’s 55% funding requirement is based. The 1A initiative called for state funding of 55% of the “total allocation”, a term that defines total state and local spending on K-12 education. At the time the initiative was written, the EPS model was not sufficiently developed to be referenced as the measure of all school funding.

2. Phase-in the state’s school funding obligation so that the 55% requirement does not have to be reached until the year 2010. Although the 1A initiative was not specific with respect to the compliance timeframe, it was implicit that the obligation on the state to provide 55% of school funding would be more immediate.

3. Require the state to ramp-up to that 55% obligation in a “straight-line” series of relatively equal  annual increases in school funding, as opposed to the lopsided ramp proposed in the Legislature’s 1B competing measure last year. The 1B proposal would have delayed all significant state increases to education until the outlying years. The specific commitments called for in the compromise is to get the state to 46.5% of the full EPS model by FY 2006, 48% in FY 2007, 50% in FY 2008, 52.5% in FY 2009 and 55% in FY 2010.

4. Include the next fiscal year (FY 2005) as part of that straight-line ramp, even though the EPS system won’t go “on line” until FY 2006. Establish a good-faith legislative commitment to this compromise by appropriating for FY 2005 a $40 million increase to the FY 2004 school subsidy appropriation. That level of increase represents the average annual increase in state support required throughout the “straight line” ramp-up period for the EPS model. The Legislature did not enact this element of the compromise, choosing instead to add only $10 million to the FY 04 appropriation.

5. Adopt some transition amendments to the law implementing the EPS model, including language retaining the minimum subsidy allocation system, preserving state commitments to debt service obligations related to new school construction, and guidelines related to special education that will recognize the need for the state to protect school systems from the extraordinary costs of the very high-end special education  services, the expenses of which are not at all within any school system’s control.