Just how ‘flexible’ is new legislation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 15, 2001

Our View

We applaud legislators for looking for a solution to education funding problems, but the ‘flexibility bill’ may not be all it claims to be.

A piece of legislation called the "flexibility bill," cleared a House of Representatives committee earlier this week, but the reality of the flexibility is questionable.

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The legislation would allow local school boards to trasfer funds between budget accounts. It would allow city and county school boards to use unspent money earmarked for such things as textbooks, professional development, technology, library costs and transportation to prevent teacher layoffs.

Being touted as a quick fix for education shortfalls, the bill may not be all its sponsor, Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, claims it to be.

In order for local school boards to take advantage of the so-called flexibility, systems would be required to submit a plan to the State Department of Education for approval. That proposal would have to show the transfer of funds would save a teacher’s job. Plus, the authority to do so could only be granted for the rest of this fiscal year and in the 2002 spending cycle.

Those in the field of education have said being able to transfer money among line items would help during times of proration, but money might be needed more for other things being cut from next year’s budget.

A catch all category known as OCE (other current expenses) has been cut by $100 million.

That "unmitigated disaster" could mean no electricity in the classroom and no gasoline for the buses.

At a time when the cost of fuel and utilities is going through the roof, many school systems are feeling the hit.

Saving grace could come in the form of being able to transfer funds for such things as paying the electricity and gas bills.

We realize saving teachers’ jobs is important, but what good is having an extra teacher if there is no power in the classroom and no way to get the students to school.

So, it appears no matter how the proration lawsuit turns out, next year might be worse.  

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