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January24

ESA funding bill passes committee

Senate Education committee members unanimously agreed to pass a bill that would return state funding to Education Service Agencies based on an application and matching funds process.

 

Senate Bill 76 will head to the Senate floor with a slightly adjusted look, but going forward nonetheless. The committee approved two amendments to the bill. The amendments changed the on-going funding amount to $150,000, down from $500,000 and will require ESAs apply to the Department of Education for a funding amount that must be matched by the agency through federal funds or other sources.

 

“I think $150,000 on-going (funding) is a little bit more realistic number at this point,” Sen. Timothy Rave (25) said. “Certainly, we can always add more in the future.”

 

Committee members decided to defer a vote on the bill from Tuesday’s meeting in order to hear input on the ESAs from Department of Education representatives, who were unable to attend due to the department’s budget hearing.

 

Secretary of Education Melody Schopp told committee members funding for ESAs was not in the department budget, but they were contracted for work that meets the department’s goals.

 

Schopp added funding for the ESAs to meet DOE goals would be useful, but it would not be if their purpose does not align with department goals. The “matching funds” amendment requiring ESAs to apply to the DOE does not specify the agencies align their educational purposes with department goals.

 

Sen. Deb Soholt (14) supported the bill, but said in the future she would like to see ESAs develop a plan for using the funding that parallels DOE’s goals.

 

“It (SB 76) gives us a vehicle to have an ongoing conversation versus just having (ESAs) die a slow death… from lack of funding,” Soholt said.

 

ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany testified in support of the bill at Tuesday’s hearing and we will continue to monitor its progress. Check the ASBSD blog and bill tracker for updates.

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