Updated 9:54 p.m.
One Republican senator wants to abolish the Education Oversight Committee. Legislators should consider moving some of its functions under the State Board of Education, he said.
In a budget meeting by a Senate Finance subcommittee tasked with overseeing education finance equity, Sen. Shane Martin, of Pauline, said he thinks the committee has outlived its usefulness. It consumes tens and tens of millions of dollars that should go to the classroom, he said.
The agency’s budget for the current fiscal year, which began in July, is roughly $1.8 million.
The state Education Department is asking lawmakers to consider appropriating additional recurring funds to improve teacher recruitment and retention, and raising teacher salaries by $800 to meet the Southeastern average. The agency also wants to increase starting salaries for teachers with bachelor’s degrees to $32,000, up from roughly $30,000.
Martin said more money might help, but money isn’t the problem. “The problem is that we’ve created a legal and bureaucratic nightmare from which teachers flee and which kids have trouble learning.”
Martin cited teachers being subject to piles of paperwork and students to extensive testing.
He called on the agency to come up with a comprehensive plan to address school districts with falling populations and limited infrastructure.
Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman, sits on both committees. “I really want to build something around getting good teachers in the classroom,” he said. Matthews, a retired principal, also favors incentivizing the consolidation of smaller school districts.
Martin’s public recommendation comes ahead of formal budget requests by state agencies for the upcoming fiscal year.
The EOC is comprised of 18 educators, businesses people and elected officials. The agency regularly reviews the state’s education system.