Assemblywoman Addie Russell is introducing legislation that would change the state's formula for doling out school aid.
It has to do with ceilings and floors. Basically, schools get assigned a number based on their wealth to determine how much school aid they need, between 0.65 and 2. But some schools are actually poorer than a 0.65, making them appear wealthier than they are. Similarly, some schools are well above the top threshold of 2, making them appear poorer than they actually are. That means the poor schools don't get the money that they need, and rich schools get funds they don't deserve, Mrs. Russell argues.
Her legislation would lower the floor to .25, and raise the roof to 3, creating more accurate reflections, she said, of need in poor districts.
Mrs. Russell, D-Theresa, added that the proposal could be revenue neutral. It's a sort of Robin Hood type thing: take from the rich schools and give to the poor ones (I don't mean to disparage it. A recent report indicated that school aid cuts hit students in poor districts harder than those in rich districts).
But on top of that change, she'd also like to see a reconstituted millionaires' tax, on incomes more than $1 million, at the 8.97 percent rate. That additional revenue would go to school aid — but wait. Would it? It would actually just go into the general fund. Mrs. Russell said she is working on legislation that would tie the millionaires' tax revenue with school aid, to force it to go there. Though it would be politically popular, it would need to be negotiated.
State Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, is also working on legislation that would address inequalities in rural school funding. I don't know if it's similar to Mrs. Russell's legislation, or if Mrs. Ritchie will be the lead sponsor. An answer should be coming soon.