Legislators should not be lured into thinking that giving local schools more flexibility can replace the money promised in the Basic Education Program, the state school board chairman said Wednesday.
``I would urge you to keep the Basic Education Program alive ...,' Barbara Tapscott told the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. ``We need those resources and all the flexibility in the world won't replace them.``If we aren't careful, we're going to convince ourselves that flexibility is the answer for a lack of resources,' she said. ``But it isn't.'
Gov. Jim Martin, in his proposed budget, has recommended putting the BEP and its scheduled $84 million expansion on hold next year. But he has recommended $22 million to expand the School Improvement and Accountability Act, which gives local schools more flexibility in using funds and following state rules if they can show improved performance by students.
Public Schools Superintendent Bob Etheridge told the panel that Gov. Jim Martin's budget asks the public schools to refund $101 million next year, twice the amount of refunds ordered this year.
``If you cut $101 million next year, we're going to have to be in here talking about what programs to cut,' Etheridge said. ``Ninety-two percent of our budget is in personnel and half of what remains is in fuel expense for transportation.'
House Minority Leader Johnathan Rhyne, R-Lincoln, asked Etheridge if school money could not be better spent by letting local officials make all the decisions on how to use state funds.
``I'm not talking about cutting any resources,' he said. ``I'm talking about taking the money and letting my school board and my superintendent decide where it should go. I think they know more about what they need than we do.