Education finance panel back from limbo

After springing into existence in late September, following many months of delay, the Public Education Finance Reform Commission (PEFRC) essentially disappeared. Formed by the D.C. Council in 2010 to explore questions about fairness and equity in public schools and public charter schools funding, the panel met just once before it was eclipsed by its own budget and procurement problems.

But PEFRC is back, with a schedule of six three-hour meetings between now and the end of January, when it is supposed to make recommendations to the D.C. Council. The first session is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, (location TBD). The commission’s charge is a broad one: to look at issues of adequacy, equity, affordability and transparency in local school finance — and to do it in time to inform the fiscal year 2013 budget cycle.

Chairman Ed Lazere, executive director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, said he’s not altogether sure how much ground the panel can cover between now and late January, or how meaningful its recommendations will be, given the deadline.

“I can’t say at this point,” Lazere said, adding that much of the Dec. 1 meeting will likely be devoted to assessing what the commission can actually accomplish.

Membership is already changing. Timothea Howard of CentroNia has resigned due to health issues. Lazere said she will be replaced by a representative from the community, based on nominations submitted by commissioners and members of the public. Two additional community-based members will also be added, in response to criticism that the group is top-heavy with government officials.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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