Governor Parnell signed the FY 13 budgets Monday, May 14, including SB 182 and the General Obligation Bond bill, and held a press conference to review his vetoes. Education items vetoed were all related to early learning:
· $1.2 million from HB 284 (operating budget) for Pre—K grants
· $2,860,000 from SB 182 (education funding) for Parents as Teachers
· $973,000 from SB 160 (capital budget) for the Pilot Pre-K Program expansion
Governor Parnell said there was disagreement early in session on how education funding should go, and he asked for no increases to funding formulas. He said Rep. Stoltze worked hard on SB 182, which increases funding for pupil transportation and CTE. It also provides a one-time appropriation of $25 million in recognition of high energy costs, and reduces required local effort, so it’s local tax relief.
Rep. Stoltze and Sen. Meyer were both in attendance. Rep. Stoltze noted that the $25 million in one-time funding for school districts is in the capital budget, not SB 182. Sen. Meyer said the process for how they are going to fund pupil transportation will change from per pupil to actual cost. They will also get all school districts on the same five year bid cycle, to try to reduce costs.
Governor Parnell said his goal with the budgets was to increase economic opportunity and strengthen families. He thanked legislators for working with him to meet spending limits, and to meet constitutional priorities, such as education funding. The goal was to get legislators to slow the rate of spending because of the reduction in oil production.
Governor Parnell said they all accept Pre-K and early learning as an important part of childhood development. Clearly, parents are responsible for that. There are times when parents do not take responsibility, and the state is stepping in. His budget vetoes reflect what he saw as a headlong rush to public school funding of early education and early learning. He said Parents as Teachers sounds like an education component, but it’s services to parents to teach them to be better parents, and perhaps it should be a Dept. of Health & Social Services program. He said PaT is not restricted to the education clause of constitution, and all organizations could deliver those services. If they rush to fund those services without discussion, they will have embraced public education from cradle to grave, which is why he reined that in. He said they need to look holistically at how early learning issues are addressed.
When asked again about his cuts to early learning programs, Governor Parnell said he believes the ultimate responsibility for early education is with parents, but he understands that some parents don’t exercise that responsibility. He understands the state needs to step in, but they need to have a conversation on how that should be done, and whether that should be the Dept. of Health & Social Services stepping in, and not the Dept. of Education & Early Development.