Task force leaves labor issues to Legislature


The governor’s Education Task Force agreed on one thing Friday — what not to tackle.

The group of educators, business leaders and legislators decided to leave some things to the 2013 Legislature to discuss and decide — labor negotiations and the 2013 fiscal budget, that ends on June 30, 2013.

Task force chair Richard Westerberg, a member of the State Board of Education, told the attendees first in the morning that they would not be discussing labor issues left undecided after the repeal of Proposition 1 of the Students Come First laws.

“The state board has never dealt with labor issues and we don’t think it would be prudent to spend time on those issues here,” Westerberg told the group.

State Board member Mike Rush added: “Those issues will be vetted through the legislative process and their committee hearings. There is a process already in.”

The Education Task Force also agreed to stay about from Fiscal Year 2013 funding, though that majority decision came with much more deliberation.

About $30.6 million in the FY 2013 budget is unallocated for since the repeal of the Students Come First laws. The Legislature has three options for spending that money. It could do nothing and the money would go into an education savings account. The Legislature could move that money into something other than education, but that would require a two-thirds vote from the budget committee. Or, the Legislature could divide the money between school districts.

“There are members on JFAC (budget committee) that would like to see something else happen to that money but I don’t think there is a two-thirds majority,” Sen. John Goedde told the group.

Goedde, chair of the Senate Education Committee, also told the group that he thinks much of the $30.6 million will be returned to districts to fulfill financial obligations where the money has already been spent the money. In the Meridian School District, for example, more than $6 million is needed to make its budget whole.

“But some unexpended funds may be pulled back,” Goedde added. “Those things not expended since the election may get reallocated within the education arena.

Don’t spend any more money on items tied to Students Come First, including dual credits and technology, Goedde said.

“The governor’s clear expectation is that the FY13 money is best addressed by the Legislature,’’ said the governor’s deputy Roger Brown, who sits on the task force.

The group tried to agree to recommend to the Legislature on how to spend that $30.6 million, but Rep. Reed DeMordaunt said the final words that stopped the 2013 budget discussion.

“We have a process in place to established the budget within our legislative policy committees,” DeMordaunt said. “This task force needs to focus on other things.”