In October 2012, Picus Odden and Associates launched a comprehensive study of Maine’s school funding system. The study is ongoing.
Our April 2013 report described the Maine funding system, assessed its equity using multiple measures and multiple statistics, provided a comparative state analysis on several fiscal and outcome measures focusing on comparisons with New England States, analyzed Maine’s Essential Programs and Services (EPS) school funding system through the lens of our firm’s Evidence-Based model, and provided an overview of various state efforts to modify teacher salary structures to enhance district ability to recruit and retain effective teachers.
In August 2013, we presented a report on alternative measures of school district fiscal capacity, which reviewed the issues related to districts high in property wealth and low in average household income (characteristic of many Maine vacation communities) and provided multiple options for addressing the mismatch. These options included: adding a multiplicative income factor to district property wealth per pupil; enhancing the state’s circuit breaker program that targets property tax relief to low income households overburdened by property taxes; and expanding the state’s homestead exemption for property taxes.
We also developed a simulation tool that allows the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs to simulate variations of all elements of the EB model. The simulation includes a distribution capacity that allows for alternative measures of school district fiscal capacity. The distribution model displays the impact of each alternative on total costs, and shows district-by-district data for both state aid and local funding.
The firm met again with the Joint Standing Committee in October, and submitted a final report on December 1, 2013. They worked as needed with the legislature during the 2014 session.
Government Finance Officers Association
For several months during 2013, Odden advised the Government Finance Officers Association as it developed new templates for more strategic budgeting in school districts and their school sites. The new “best practices” templates are based largely on the Evidence-Based model the firm has developed and used all over the country during the past decade. This was background analysis for a new GFOA strategic budgeting prize it will award to districts that meet standards for altering their budgeting system to align dollars with strategies to boost student achievement.
In September, Odden met with an Interim Education Committee charged with the task of recalibrating the North Dakota school funding system, a foundation program for which the foundation expenditure level has been raised substantially over the past five years in part as a result of an adequacy study our firm conducted for North Dakotain 2008. We will be working with this committee over the next year as it reassesses the degree to which the system is still adequately funded and decides on what changes are needed in the future.