Continuing to defer mandate costs while avoiding substantive mandate reform has several negative consequences. For school districts and community colleges, deferral means still having to perform hundreds of activities, which are often of little benefit to students, even amid steep budget cuts. Mandates also allow districts and community colleges without justification to claim very different amounts for performing the same activities. For the state, deferral means the debt owed to schools will grow steeply and, without substantive reform, most mandated policies likely will continue to be implemented ineffectively and inefficiently.
We recommend comprehensively reforming K–14 mandates. If a mandate serves a purpose fundamental to the education system, such as protecting student health or providing essential assessment and oversight data, it should be funded. If not, the mandate should be eliminated. Taken as a whole, our reform package would relieve school districts and community colleges of performing hundreds of activities that provide little value to students while providing them with adequate and timely compensation for the activities still required of them. In addition, comprehensively reforming mandates would reduce the state’s annual obligations by more than $350 million—funds that could be saved or allocated to districts for higher priorities.
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