Flurry Of New Bills Marks Lawmakers' Return To Raleigh

Jan 25, 2017

Legislators filed  dozens of bills on the first day back since session officially opened, including a proposal to develop a plan to change how the state funds public schools.

The education finance reform bill would create a task force of lawmakers who would work with the Department of Public Instruction to create a new school funding formula. The proposal builds off of a General Assembly Program Evaluation Division study, which found that the state's current school funding formula lacks transparency, favors wealthier counties and doesn't fairly compensate schools who have a high number of students with special needs.

According to the proposal, the team would include 18 lawmakers, nine from each chamber. The task force would come up with a new, "weighted" student formula. A weighted formula would set a base rate for a student without special needs. Students who have additional needs, such as students with disabilities or English language learners, would bring their district or charter school a higher allotment than the base rate.

The bill would direct lawmakers to look at weighted funding models in other states, identify which student characteristics should be weighted and determine each characteristics's appropriate weight. The measure also says lawmakers should settle on an appropriate base rate  and determine whether the base rate should vary by school district.

Several other bills filed Wednesday include a provision to increase property tax breaks for veterans, a provision to allow natural gas distributors the power to condemn private property for public use and a bill to ease class size reductions mandated in the 2016-2017 budget.

House Speaker Tim Moore told his fellow House lawmakers some bills may be read in Thursday or Monday, but both Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger say they don't plan to have any floor votes until next week.