It is widely agreed that the version of SB 193 that passed the Senate in March, 2017 is too costly to the general fund and still downshifts hundreds of millions of dollars in school funding responsibility to local taxpayers and has many other problems. But the House is finding that its options for fixing the bill are limited.
If the House voted tomorrow (Thursday, May 10th) to convene a committee of conference with the Senate, House rules would require that changes be related to provisions already in the bill. That would leave a committee of conference with no opportunity to reduce the financial damage to the State or the schools. Here is a sample of the key SB 193 provisions added by the Education and the Finance Committees that a committee of conference would not be able to include in HB 1636 because they would not be rule “germane” according to the House rules:
- There would be no ability to limit the cost to the general fund or local taxpayers because there is no reference to annual caps on the number of ESA grants and no reference to a stabilization fund to limit the impact on local taxpayers.
- There could be no provision for students with special needs because there is no such reference in HB 1636 now.
- There could be no requirement for educational accountability or assessing a student’s educational progress for the same reason.
- And there is no oversight commission or reference to another legislative oversight mechanism.
Most Republicans in the Legislature do believe in private school choice and have done their best to accommodate the Governor’s highest policy priority, but they seem to be out of running room. There does not seem to be a way to turn HB 1636 into a bill that Republicans would agree is affordable and defensible.
Urge your Representative to vote “non-concur” and “no” on the committee of conference tomorrow.