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In other words, the state can take the money first and the school district must fight to get it back. That is an expensive and damaging cost to local school systems when you have to go into narrow resources for the problem of going to court.
Since the state will have the burden of utilizing the exception clause, the states should have to provide the burden of proof before removing the funds.
Since the states have allowed the gross inequities in public school finance for so many years the assurance of good performance in the future cannot be accepted without very careful, close monitoring and implementation when the program is in existence.
I find it difficult to accept the phrase that was used previously that these are recognized good principles because the regulations included two sets of percentages. My recollection is that the disparity standard was at twenty percent initially and was increased to 25 percent. It is interesting. Maybe they consulted with different experts in the field.
It is also my recollection that the original amount of funds that must be included under the fiscal neutrality was 90 percent and then it was increased to 85 percent. Maybe more books were consulted. That disparity standard should have some scientific statistical basis that would show what the effect would be in the classroom of increasing these arbitrary markers.
The final statement regards the process mentioned here. school districts were not adequately consulted in the process. There was one meeting at the Office of Education-I know because I invited myself. The word was passed to the state departments to bring somebody to the meeting. the meeting didn't occur until we brought this to the attention of the Office of Education and only a few people from eight states were invited. There were fewer than 20 districts in the room when this took place.
Another factor we consider important, two tests were developed, equalization being equalization. If those two tests are necessary, and I don't believe they are, that one would work. We don't even see the necessity for the Commissioner's exception unless the desire is to qualify as many states as possible.
Finally, in the process the Office of Education did not develop or publish any data showing the effect of the proposed regulations and in fact a contract was awarded to one of the organizations that have been identified here as an advocate on one side in this issue. This contract allows this organization to develop its own interpretation and results. Somehow I don't consider this a very desirable practice. As a matter of fact, it is highly questionable and I think it is something that should be looked into.
Above all, we are concerned about the future of the program. There is something that seemed a good idea that later on became obsolete in its limitation.
I wish to close with this comment: This is a very serious matter. We think that the regulations have gone too far and are abridging the rights of the school districts. We would like to see the results in dollar terms in the individual school districts programs laid out. Thank you.
Mr. QUIE. Mr. Odom.
Your statement will be included in the record at this point. [The prepared statement of Mr. Odom follows:]
TESTIMONY BEFORE THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ELEMENTARY, SECONDARY AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
WALLACE S. ODOM
ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT FOR FINANCE & BUSINESS AFFAIRS
THE SCHOOL BOARD OF ESCAMBIA COUNTY
215 WEST GARDEN STREET
POST OFFICE BOX 1470
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA 32503
JUNE 29, 1977
WASHINGTON, D. C.
THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ELEMENTARY, SECONDARY AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
Carl D. Perkins (Kentucky) (Chairman)
Ike F. Andrews (North Carolina)
Michael T. Blouin (Iowa)
Paul Simon (Illinois)
Leo C. Zeferetti (New York)
Austin J. Murphy (Pennsylvania)
Baltasar Corrada (Puerto Rico)
John Buchanan (Alabama)
Larry Pressler (South Dakota)
William F. Goodling (Pennsylvania)
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I am Wallace S. Odom, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business Affairs with the School Board of Escambia County, Florida.
I am distinctly honored at the privilege accorded me today to address the Committee on the federal funding of public education--specifically with regard to equalization.
I should like to begin on a positive note by commending you, Mr. Chairman, and the Congress for your demonstrated support for the public schools of this nation through the years. We in Florida are well aware of your constant concern that the education of children be supported fairly and equitably at all levels of government--federal, state and local. I am in complete agreement with the often-stated position that education should be a concern of the federal government, a responsibility of state government, and a function of local government. Mr. Chairman, if we could achieve that distribution of authority it would be the perfect dream come true for public education. The federal concern to which I refer should be not merely a philosophical admonition of a regulatory statute, but a tangible concern expressed in dollars.
The subject at hand today is equalization. We all know what equalization is and by its historical definition I believe we are all in accord that we support it. Not to do so would be unconscionable. But today, through a revision of the federal rules and regulations the term equalization has taken on a new meaning--a meaning only applicable to public education. It is a meaning which should now qualify as an antonym to equalization. for equalization.
The problem is, what is it? Have the dictionaries been wrong all through the years in defining equalization as: to make equal; to make uniform; evenly proportioned; regular; unvarying? Have the dictionaries also been wrong in listing the antonyms as: unequal; different; disproportionate; inadequate?
Let us now focus upon the final federal rules and regulations which go into effect July 1, 1977. These regulations deal with the treatment of payments under state equalization programs. Since the beginning of impact aid, payments by the Federal Government have been made directly to the school districts earning these funds. The new regulations will permit a state having an equalization program, through state legislative action, to require all such payments be made directly to the state for inclusion in its state education finance funding formula.
In Florida there are 67 school districts (each county is one school district) of which 26 earn impact aid funds. Under the new federal regulations these funds would be paid to the state and then be redistributed by the state to all 67 school districts, 41 of which had no part in earning the funds. Obviously, the 26 school districts earning the funds would receive only a watered-down share. For a state to qualify under the new federal regulations, it must meet a certain test called the "disparity standard".
States applying this test would rank all school districts in order of either revenues or expenditures per pupil. Then the school districts that had the top 5% and the bottom 5% of the pupils in terms of this ranking would be disregarded. If the revenue or expenditure figure of the new top district (the 95th percentile cut-off) was no more than 25% higher than the similar figure for the new bottom district (the 5th percentile cut-off), then the state would qualify as an "equalized" state. Under this test, 10% of the state's children are not counted because they are "statistical aberrations". I shall refer now to a publication produced annually by the Commissioner of Education of Florida entitled Profiles of Florida School Districts for the 1975-76 fiscal year. Let us pretend for a moment that the new federal rules and regulations on equalization were in effect during that period. We would find that in Florida for fiscal 1976 there were over 1.6 million full time students in our public schools. In disregarding the bottom 5% this would mean that over 80,000 students in Florida's poorest school districts would not have to be included in any equalization plan. Also, by disregarding the top 5% it would mean that over 80,000 students in the state's wealthiest school districts would literally be "above the law".
I have included Appendix "A" to allow you to follow this analysis. The 25% spread around the average revenue per student in Florida for fiscal 1976 would allow the State Department of Education to say that children of Broward County at $1,551 per student are receiving the same quality education as those in Escambia County at $1,265 per student. This represents a revenue disparity of $286, or 22.6% per student. For a classroom of 25 students this is an actual difference of $7,150--enough in Florida to hire a teacher's aide and carpet and air condition the classroom; or purchase 30 new books for each and every child (750 total books); etc. Please note that this disparity is only 22.6%.
Florida would therefore qualify as an equalized state since the new regulations allow a disparity of up to 25% for qualification of being considered equalized. A 25% revenue disparity would allow a difference in Florida of $316.25 per student (this is still using Escambia County as $1,265 per student as the bottom base), or $7,906.25 allowable difference for a classroom of 25 students. This difference is signficant, Mr. Chairman.
I ask you, is this equalization by any stretch of the imagination? If this is equalization today, what will it become tomorrow? No, Mr. Chairman, this is obviously not equalization--it is instead a deception, a farce, a tragedy to those school districts across our land who are at the lower end of the revenue spectrum, and who more each day realize that they are losing what has become the fight, the battle, the war, for what they know in their minds and hearts is right.
Interestingly enough it can be proven that impact aid funds, as it has existed, does bring about better equalization than the new federal rules and regulations will allow. As documentation of this statement please refer to Appendix "B". It is very similar to Appendix "A" in that all school districts in Florida are ranked in order of revenues per student. The difference is that all impact aid funds have been removed to reflect what the revenue per student would be in all Florida school districts without impact aid as a revenue source. In applying the same disparity test as before, by eliminating the top 5% and bottom 5%, we find that the remaining 90% reflects a range in revenues per student at a high of $1,550 in Broward County to a low of $1,221 in Escambia County. The difference of $329 per student represents a disparity of 26.9%. The State of Florida, without impact aid funds, would therefore not qualify as an "equalized" state. You will recall that by the inclusion of impact aid funds, of payments made directly to the school districts earning the funds, the disparity was 22.6%. There are several implications which may be drawn from this analysis, but the most important is proof-certain that, on balance, those school districts receiving impact aid funds are at the lower end of the revenue spectrum.
Appendix "C" has been included to summarize "A" and "B", plus reflect the degree impact aid funds would have on a per student basis when distributed to all students in the school district. From this one can easily see the intensity of concentration of impact students to the total student population of the school district. School districts showing the higher dollar amounts per student, such as Okaloosa County at $126 and Monroe County at $107, means that they have the highest concentration of students upon which the school district earns impact aid funds. Conversely, school districts showing the lower dollar amounts per student, such as Broward County at $1 and Leon County at $3, means that they have the lowest concentration of students upon which the school district earns impact aid funds. These amounts were derived from a printout from the Department of HEW, Office of Education, School Assistance In Federally Affected Areas, dated December 30, 1976, showing the fiscal 1976 appropriation for each school district in Florida. It was then a simple matter for me to compute the amount of revenue on a per student basis which I then rounded to the nearest dollar.