Friday, May 13, 2011

General Assembly Update

We receive updates from Tennessee County Services Association weekly in the form of the “TCSA – Capitol Update.”
It is an update on bills being considered in the General Assembly with an eye towards bills that affect county government.
Since education has been such a big part of the discussion here in Robertson County, this week’s “Capitol Update” caught my eye:
Charter schools: The Administration’s charter schools bill, SB1523/HB1989 (Norris, McCormick), has now been set for May 17 in Senate Finance and May 18 in House Finance Subcommittee after being tied up for weeks in those committees because of the bill’s fiscal impact on local governments. As amended, the bill removes the cap on the number of charter schools operating in the state and opens enrollment in those schools, among other reforms.
As students leave the general public school system and enroll in a charter school, their state/local funding goes to the new facility. The general public school system is then left with continuing overhead costs such as debt service, utilities, and staffing mandates. Having fewer students does not necessarily mean less mandated costs for the public school system.
County associations remain concerned about this potential fiscal impact on local governments that operate traditional public schools. You should contact your legislators and let them know that the fiscal impact should be addressed so local governments are not further handicapped in meeting their mandated funding  requirements for K-12 public education.
Capital outlay for schools:  SB1916/HB1132 (Woodson, H. Brooks) has been deferred until 2012 in Senate Education and House Finance Subcommittee. The bill would have allowed school boards to enter into capital leases and build-to-suit capital leases for the renovation of school buildings and facilities. The bill included provisions that require the county legislative body to approve such agreements.