A recession has interrupted the seven-year phase-in of a new formula for providing public schools state money. Lawmakers are struggling to decide how best to re-write the formula to make it through tough economic times.

This would have been the 5th year of the seven-year phase-in, but legislators quickly realized the state couldn’t afford the $105 million increase. The sticking point though, according to Rep. Maynard Wallace (R-Thornfield), is how to distribute a four-percent shortfall in funding. Specifically should school districts that don’t see more money through the formula receive less when it doesn’t meet projections?

Wallace says the House wants the cuts equally distributed, a concept not as well received in the Senate.

“That’s basically what it comes down to,” Wallace says. “The Senate says it can’t pass what we passed over and I’m saying we can’t pass what they sent us. And, so, we’re trying to find some middle ground.”

On-going discussions between House and Senate staffers should provide a proposal for Wallace’s committee to consider. He hopes for a bill that can pass the House and be accepted in the Senate. It likely will be a revision of SB 943. Wallace intends to add provisions from HB 2053 onto the Senate bill, such as relieving school districts from a requirement that one percent of their state funding pay for professional development, relaxing pay requirements and lifting requirements for the number of supervisory personnel a district needs. All of the changes would be temporary.

Rep. Rachel Bringer (D-Palmyra) says a thoughtful approach to school funding is needed.

“And this is not it,” Bringer says. “Doing a floor amendment with two weeks in the session left to radically change the phase-in is not the right solution at all.”

Bringer doesn’t believe the legislature needs to do anything this session. She says a thorough study should be undertaken with simulations run for the various proposed changes so that legislators have an understanding of which districts win and which lose under the proposals.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]