Budget agreement watch: Consensus on K-12 education pieces

03/29/2014 08:44 PM

The closed-door session of the budget negotiations, which began shortly before 3:30 p.m. Saturday, appears to be far more productive than the contentious open portion of the of the conference committee.

Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington and chair of the House Budget subcommittee for K-12 education, left the meeting with legislative leaders at 9:15 p.m. with a broad grin.

“I feel very good about where we are,” she said.

She said the House and Senate leaders reached agreement on the preschool and K-12 portions of the $20 billion two-year state spending plan.

That included agreeing to a mandate for teacher raises as the Democratic-controlled House and Gov. Steve Beshear wanted, Flood said.

The final compromise on the budget also will adopt the Senate’s proposal regarding spending for school technology. Instead of selling $50 million in bonds to buy computers for schools, the state will focus much of the money tagged for those 10 years of annual payments to purchase bandwidth instead, Flood confirmed.

Flood praised Republican Sen. David Givens of Greensburg, who came came up with the plan . Givens said it didn’t make sense to put computers on the state’s credit card to pay off over 10 years when they would be out-dated in three or four.

That freed up more than $3 million in fiscal year 2015 and $6.6 million in 2016. Under the proposal from Givens and the Senate, much of that money would go toward the Department of Education buying bandwidth to increase internet access and speed at schools. At the same time, schools would be encouraged to purchase new computers using a federal Erate program, that gives more than 80 percent rebate on technology purchases for schools and libraries.

“I believe the Senate has a very strong plan,” Flood said. “The Senate plan was solid.”

As for the overall pace and progress of the negotiations, Flood said the conference committee negotiators are “solidly half-way through and are moving at a good pace.”


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