RALEIGH Legislation to form an education task force that would be charged to develop new funding formulas for schools passed the N.C. House of Representatives Thursday. House Bill 6 would create the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform to consider various types of weighted student formula funding models that will determine how public school allotments operate.Acknowledging the Old North State’s geographic diversity and urban/rural divide, the bill authors include language that such diversity will be reflected on the 18 member task force and that each chamber must appoint at least one minority party member to the body.The latter elicited criticism from House Democrats who said the membership of the task force should better represent the people’s house and comply with chamber customs, offering an amendment to increase required minority party task force appointments from one to three.”If we’re going to represent all the citizens of North Carolina [the task force] needs to reflect all the citizens of North Carolina,” said Rep. Carla Cunningham (D-Mecklenburg). “It should reflect all of North Carolina citizens when it’s going to make one of the most important decisions about their education.”House Republicans pointed out that just because the bill requires the one minority seat, does not mean they are limited to one and that they expect the task force to be more representative of the state.”Whether the Democrats are in charge or the Republicans are in charge the committees have been pretty balanced,” said Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union). “I think we need to just get on with it.”Get on with it they did, as Republicans defeated the amendment and ultimately sent the bill to the N.C. Senate.The task force will be asked to determine “the base amount of funds that must be distributed on a per student basis to cover the cost of educating a student in the State.”In doing so, it must also determine which student characteristics should be eligible for various formula weightings and how each local school district would require adjustments based on the new weightings.Beyond weighted-funding formulas, the task force is instructed to study funding models for elementary and secondary public schools and public charter schools from around the country as well as any other issue “deemed relevant.”The focus on school funding formulas comes as many school districts struggle with problems from last year’s reduced class size mandates. The new rules necessitated building more classrooms, which recently prompted mitigating legislation to provide more flexibility.
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