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January22

Vote on ESA bill deferred until Thursday

 

Senate Education committee members decided to defer a vote on a bill that would restore state funding for Education Service Agencies until their Thursday meeting.

 

The decision came after the committee heard testimony and discussion on Senate Bill 76 and determined further input from the Department of Education was needed. DOE Finance Director Tamara Darnall briefly testified, but had to return to the department’s joint appropriations budget hearing.

 

SB 76 had eight supporters testify and zero opposition. ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany was among the vocal supporters under the direction of the association’s resolution C3, which called for “full funding” return to ESAs.

 

“School boards clearly understand the impact ESAs can have,” Pogany testified. “I think it’s time for rekindling the ESAs.”

 

The bill proposes $500,000 in one-time funding for ESAs, which bill sponsor and committee member Sen. Ryan Maher (28) said was allocated for ESAs in the past.

 

Committee members’ questions about the bill included how the funding would be dispersed to the six agencies and why funding wasn’t provided in the DOE’s budget.

 

“We will have this (funding) problem every year, if you will, from a consistency stand point… until you make this (ESA) a part of somebody’s budget,” Sen. Bruce Rampelberg (30) said. Darnall told the committee ESA funding was not part of the DOE’s recommended budget.

 

Pogany referenced the beginning stages of DOE initiatives such as teacher and administrator evaluations and Common Core Standards as being areas ESAs could provide valuable assistance.

 

“What I hear superintendents and boards telling me is, ‘we just need help with the design and implementation of all these things (initiatives),” Pogany said.

 

Pogany, who worked closely with the development of ESAs during his tenure with the DOE, urged the committee to continue the conversation related to ESA funding because of their value to education and the instant benefits they could provide with the foundation already in place.

 

“Even if the dollar amount varies or changes, please keep this (reinstatement of funding) going as a conversation,” Pogany said. “All the infrastructure is in place. All that’s missing is the funding.”

 

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