Applications Now Open for the 2024 Western Legislative Academy

Each year, state legislators from the western region are selected to participate in the Western Legislative Academy (WLA), a multi-day training experience focused on sharpening leadership skills in communications, consensus building, focus management, ethics and more. Sessions are interactive and hosted by national leaders and academic authorities. Additionally, class members learn from each other and develop lasting relationships with legislative peers.

The application period is now open for the 2024 WLA, which will take place December 10-13 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The deadline for completed applications is May 1st.

“This program was just the motivation and training I needed to up my game as a public servant for my communities – both my district and the Wyoming House of Representatives. I learned how to more effectively build relationships with my colleagues in Wyoming and across the West – a skill that will ensure that my district gets the most of my time as their Representative. The relationships I fostered at CSG have already made me a better Representative for the state of Wyoming and I look forward to building a brighter future for all of our constituents together.”

– Wyoming Representative Karlee Provenza, 2023 WLA Class President

Click below to view the 2024 Western Legislative Academy Brochure

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Housing Affordability & Homelessness in the Rapidly Growing West

Housing Committee Recap:

Shane Phillips, Housing Initiative Project Manager with the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, focused on the intricate dynamics of housing policy, with an emphasis on navigating the trade-offs between different perspectives.

In Part 2 of this session, Tracee Henneke, Director of Relationships & Giving for Mobile Loaves and Fishes, provided a comprehensive view of Community First! Village – often referred to as “Austin’s most talked about neighborhood.”

Speaker Shane Phillips discusses coalition-building to address current housing affordability challenges.
Part 1: Housing Affordability

Approaches to housing policy are nuanced

Phillips contends that housing reform involves winners and losers but emphasizes the importance of a well-balanced approach to benefit the majority. Underscoring the political nature of housing reform, he asserts that finding the right mix is essential to ensure widespread benefit. Phillips argues that delay in addressing housing challenges leads to a lasting decrease in affordability.

Tension between housing as a source of wealth and affordability

The tension between housing as a source of wealth and its affordability is a central theme. Phillips challenges the notion that housing appreciation is universally positive, shedding light on its substantial drawbacks. He introduced the pro-housing versus pro-tenant perspectives, contending that pro-housing advocate typically focuses on who benefits from development, while the pro-tenant advocate questions who is harmed. Phillips suggests that a more comprehensive approach involves asking both questions to formulate better policies and build stronger coalitions.

Saying “yes” to housing supply, stability, and subsidy

The Three S’s—Supply, Stability, and Subsidy—were presented as interconnected elements. Phillips elaborated on the importance of a growing housing stock to address scarcity and economic constraints. Stability considerations focus on moral obligations towards renters, aiming to prevent their marginalization. Subsidy policies are discussed in terms of addressing gaps left by supply and stability measures, highlighting the need for efficient use of resources.

Pick two: appealing, unchanging, or affordable

Phillips contends that every city faces a choice between being appealing, unchanging, or affordable, but can only achieve two of these traits simultaneously. If a city is appealing and unchanging, he affirms that it will lack affordability – using San Francisco as an example. If it is unchanging and affordable, such as Detroit, he suggests it may lack appeal for attracting or maintaining residents. And if a city is both appealing and affordable, Phillips argues that it won’t stay that way without new housing supply and a plan for a future with more neighbors. He cautions against denying the future, presenting examples of cities that faced consequences for attempting such an approach.

“All of the above” approaches in action:

Phillips concluded by highlighting successful approaches, including Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, legislative efforts in Oregon, and “The Montana Miracle.” In these examples, he illustrated the practical implementation of comprehensive approaches in diverse contexts.

Part 2: Community First! Village | A Different Approach to Homelessness

Community First! Village has garnered attention as a 51-acre master planned development in Austin, Texas, offering affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for those exiting chronic homelessness. A project by Mobile Loaves & Fishes, it aims to address homelessness at its core by acknowledging that “housing will never solve homelessness, but community will.” Founder Alan Graham and his wife exemplify the commitment to this vision by choosing to reside among formerly homeless neighbors.

“The Single Greatest Cause of Homelessness is a Profound, Catastrophic Loss of Family.”

– Alan Graham, Founder and CEO of Community First! Village

Homelessness arises from intersecting broken systems and layers of trauma

The village’s philosophy asserts that homelessness arises from intersecting broken systems and layers of trauma, such as loss of family, foster care, and adverse childhood experiences, among others. Residents, with an average age of 57, have most commonly been homeless for over nine years. Sixty-five percent manage two or more chronic illnesses and their average age at death is 60.

“Housing will never solve homelessness, but community will.”

At Community First! Village, the intentional design of shared spaces, including front porches and communal areas, encourages interactions among neighbors, emphasizing the importance of community building. Additionally, 20% of residents are not homeless but choose to live in community with the formerly homeless. The “Community Works” initiative is integral, empowering residents to rediscover purpose and earn a dignified income through various opportunities, such as working at the community’s gardens, art house, cinema, and Community Inn. Its micro-enterprise program enables volunteers to serve alongside formerly homeless individuals, fostering skill development and enduring relationships.

Residents, with an average age of 57, have most commonly been homeless for over nine years. Sixty-five percent manage two or more chronic illnesses and their average age at death is 60.

Partners make a difference when thinking about community impact

The village’s impact extends beyond housing. Partners include 31,550 private donors, 21 construction partners, 45 custom home builders, 100+ faith communities, and 14,820 annual volunteers. Together, their efforts have contributed to an estimated annual savings of $85 million for the Austin community when Community First! Village is at full occupancy.

Partners include 31,550 private donors, 21 construction partners, 45 custom home builders, 100+ faith communities, and 14,820 annual volunteers.

Looking forward to expanding resources

Presently, 343 formerly homeless individuals reside at Community First! Village, with a 99% rate of rent collection, and an 83% rate of housing stability. The village initiated an expansion in 2023, incorporating two new properties and 127 additional acres for 1,400 more homes. Once fully developed, Community First! Village will have 1,900 homes and neighborhood support buildings spread across 178 acres.


Book: The Affordable City: Strategies for Putting Housing Within Reach (and Keeping it There) – By Shane Phillips

Podcast: UCLA Housing Voice Podcast | Hosted by Shane Phillips

Video: Finding Home: Community First! Village

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Sustainable Western Agriculture and Water 

Agriculture and Water Committee Recap:

The CSG West Energy & Environment Committee, chaired by Senator Wendy McKamey (MT) and Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (CA), invited national and state experts Glenda Humiston, PhD., and Tony Willardson to discuss the sustainability of agriculture and water resources in the West with committee members.

Agriculture’s difficult landscape across the West

Decades of drought have brought dramatic changes to agriculture and water management in the West. Agriculture consolidation and foreign investment in agricultural assets and water rights further complicate an already challenging landscape for policymakers across the West. For example:

  • Limited data exists on water supplies and demands
  • Water rights can compete or be poorly defined
  • Infrastructure is aging or inadequate
  • Regulatory environments are ever-changing
  • Climate and extreme weather events are unpredictable climate

Troubling trends for our Western farmers

Despite ongoing innovation and adaption, some troubling trends have emerged, including 

  • Fallowing of agricultural land. 
  • Since 1981, the U.S. has lost 437,300 farms and 141.1 million acres of farm and ranch land. 
  • Small farms are disappearing, with farm income concentrated in larger farms. In 2019, only 50,000 farms reported revenue of over $500,000, which accounted for 89% of all farm income. Some two million farms shared the remaining 11%. Notably, 50% of farms didn’t make any money at all. 
  • For small farmers, 40% of their income came from off-farm sources. 
  • An inventory of biomass and biofuel in need of a market has accumulated.  
  • Invasive species and pests have increased in new habitats. 
  • Climate change has caused many species to relocate to new areas in search of temperatures and forage conditions conducive to their survival and reproduction. 

Challenges bring together new and more effective partnerships and resources

While a dryer, warmer climate out West with reduced snowpack and precipitation has brought challenges, they have also created partnerships and cooperation – among federal, state, and local governments across the scientific and technology sectors, the academic and applied research communities, producers, and industry.   

Water managers and users are engaged in conservation efforts, innovative water technology, and water transfers to meet the dynamic water needs out West.  

Western partnerships and initiatives include 

  • ARCHES, a hydrogen hub funded at $1.2 billion, may hold promise for biomass hydrogen fuel production 
  • USDA is diversifying small farm opportunities to include monetizing ecosystem services markets, including water and carbon sequestration, promoting regional and local food business centers, supporting localized processing plants, and using federal food buying programs. 

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Permitting Reform for Energy and Ecological Restoration Projects 

Energy & Environment Committee Recap:

The CSG West Energy & Environment Committee, chaired by Senator Eric Barlow (WY) and Representative Nicole Lowen (HI), discussed permitting processes and reform opportunities with committee members. and experts  Alex Hergott and Gokce Sencan.

Energy and ecological restoration projects face a lengthy permitting process 

Western states seek to adapt to changing climate conditions and expand energy resources while decreasing carbon emissions by:  

  • Repairing or replacing aging infrastructure  
  • Greenlighting new projects to expand energy transmission and grid loads  
  • Accelerating ecological restoration projects that conserve natural resources, sequester carbon, recharge groundwater, ensure healthy watersheds, and mitigate wildfires  

Decade-long waits and regulatory and workforce uncertainty require reform 

There is broad bipartisan agreement that the permitting process needs reform. However, substantive change needs implementation. Without it, the result is: 

  • Lengthy permitting–on average, 7 to 10 years  
  • Projects face a multijurisdictional maze of reviews and approvals/denials  
  • Regulatory uncertainty as administration turns over  
  • A lack of experienced permitting workforce at the federal, state, and county level  

 Federal funding is creating opportunities for change 

Funding has increased for projects across the energy, technology, and environmental sectors due to the passage of federal funding bills, including  

  • Energy Act of 2020  
  • Use the IT Act of 2020  
  • Inflation Reduction Act of 2021  
  • Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2022  
  • Semiconductor (CHIPS) Science Act of 2022  

This funding represents the most significant public investment in critical infrastructure – transportation, energy, and water – from the 21st century to the present. Despite funding availability, projects still need permitting delays, and the government alone cannot solve these delays.  

The path forward requires alignment and collaboration among agencies 

Beyond the permitting process, challenges will require planning, design, and permitting review. Supply chains to be aligned, and a collaborative, rather than adversarial, culture of permitting exists among the various agencies, including: 

  • Workforce and professional development – recruiting, training, and retaining expert personnel to staff up permitting agencies.  
  • Improve permitting interagency coordination. 
  • Implement strategies that align federal, state, tribal, and local permitting timetables and, where possible, reduce duplication. 
  • Implement transparency and accountability measures to include real-time information on projects in the permitting pipeline and a single state and local point of contact for permitting action. 

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The Nuts and Bolts of Legislative Oversight

Legislative Oversight Working Group Recap:

The CSG West Legislative Oversight Working Group, co-chaired by Senator Todd Weiler (UT) and Assemblymember David Alvarez (CA), gathers to exchange ideas on successes and improvements to enhance oversight practices in the members’ respective chambers. This effort aims to improve government accountability, transparency, and responsiveness.  

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred historic levels of federal fiscal relief to state and local governments. Oversight over how these funds are appropriated and managed is critical. This session addressed these emergent issues.   

The importance of legislative oversight 

Ben Eikey, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy, and former Assemblymember Ken Cooley (CA) gave an introduction on the importance of legislative oversight and best practices. Primary avenues for state legislative oversight include: 

  • Analytic bureaucracies 
  • The appropriations process 
  • Administrative rule review 
  • Advice and consent 
  • Monitoring contracts.  

Notably, Cooley served as co-chair of this Working Group while serving in the Assembly and was the driving force behind the creation of the Western Legislative Oversight Handbook. This year, He was awarded the Bettye Fahrenkamp Award for Distinguished Legislative Leadership on Behalf of Western States. In addition to offering insight into the various avenues of oversight, he moderated a storytelling exercise for legislators. 

People’s House: Oversight Can be Bipartisan & Bicameral  

“When it comes to oversight functions—of either oversight committees, oversight subcommittees, or any other special task force; anything created to oversee the executive branch—take off your party hat. Put it in a drawer, and deal with this as somebody who has taken an oath of office—or works for somebody who has taken an oath of office—to carry out the mandates of the Constitution to function as the people’s voice.”       

The Honorable Mickey Edwards, former Member of Congress (R-OK)  

Using the legislative role to influence oversight changes 

Strategies for legislators include recognizing that you can request investigations and reports, that legislators can trigger research by asking questions that prompt reconsideration and modification, and that oversight can have as much or more impact as legislation.  

A move toward being more efficient and agile in state legislatures 

Cooley led a storytelling roundtable among legislators, encouraging them to share their successes and frustrations with the process. After reviewing the oversight basics, he invited attendees to share examples of oversight, hoping that their stories would spur creativity so when legislators head home, there is a resolve to prioritize oversight on the public’s behalf.  

Members expressed great interest in oversight practices as essential to enacting effective legislation. Many members shared stories of barriers and red tape, which have hampered efforts to be efficient and agile. Shared solutions and strategies include direct communication to address an issue in its infancy, being willing to communicate openly, and creating a culture where oversight is more proactive than reactive.   

Up next, the working group will be updating the Western Legislative Oversight Handbook 

The Working Group will meet virtually over the next several months to update the handbook and present a draft at CSG West’s 77th Annual Meeting on July 9-12, 2024, in Portland, Oregon. 

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U.S. Dam Regulation & Safety and Hydrogen’s Future in the U.S. and Canada

Canada Relations Committee Recap:

Co-Chairs, Washington Representative Debra Lekanoff and Alberta MLA Grant Hunter would like to recognize and thank the speakers below who brought their expertise to share and especially Alaska Representative Sara Hannan, one of the committee’s members, who kindly agreed to co-facilitate the session with MLA Hunter.  

CSG West Canada Relations Committee

65% of U.S. dams are privately owned

Association of Dam Safety Officials

More states are regulating dams, but maintenance is challenging

Representing the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), President Sharon Tapia, P.E., PMP and Division Manager of the Division of Safety of Dams for the California Department of Water Resources, provided historical context to this discussion by cycling through the evolution of dam safety in the United States from 1889 when the South Fork Dam failed in Pennsylvania.

Only 11 states regulated dams in 1940, increasing to 49 states in 2005. Possibly, the most surprising fact about dams is ownership–65% of U.S. dams are privately owned. Examples of that ownership include companies, individual citizens, associations such as HOAs and trusts. This makes maintenance quite challenging.   

Prior funding streams have run dry for “high-hazard potential” dams in 2023

Del Shannon provided a national snapshot of aging dams in the United States on behalf of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Committee on America’s Infrastructure. As Chief Dam Engineer at Kiewit Engineering Group, he has led ASCE’s national dams report card chapter for the last few years. Every four years, ASCE issues grades akin to a school report card assigning letter grades based on the physical condition and needed investments for improvement for seventeen categories ranging from aviation to bridges and ports to roads.

Dams earned a “D” in 2021, the same grade it earned in 2017. That means, on average, U.S. dams are in poor condition and are at risk. While the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) provided $1.2 trillion investment in all 17 Report Card categories and addressed 43 Report Card recommendations, other streams of funding such as the National Dam Safety Program and the High Hazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Program were either not reauthorized or did not receive annual appropriations in FY 2023.

2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure 

Alberta’s big hydrogen production and investments are spurring opportunity

The committee also got to hear from Charles Ward, Director of Natural Gas Strategy and Engagement for Alberta Energy on clean hydrogen. He addressed the various colors like green and blue often referred to when speaking about this fuel. He also highlighted the hydrogen economy and opportunities that exist as part of the global market.

Alberta is the largest hydrogen producer in Canada at 2.5 million tons per year, aided by their skilled labor force, low-cost natural gas, and experience with handling and processing hydrogen at scale, given their 50+ years of experience in production. Other reasons include incentives in place by the Province of Alberta, such as grants of 12% of eligible capital expenses and tradable carbon credits created from blue hydrogen/ammonia production. Their Hydrogen Centre of Excellence also cannot be ignored. It invests in made-in-Alberta hydrogen technologies to the tune of $50 million over four years.  

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Powering the West Through a Reliable Energy Grid

Westrends Board Recap:

Co-Chairs, New Mexico Senator Liz Stefanics and Wyoming Representative Landon Brown would like to thank Hawaii Senator Lynn DeCoite and Montana Senator Mike Cuffe, who both agreed to introduce the speakers and facilitate the discussion on this very important topic, and to recognize and thank the speakers below who brought their expertise to share and especially Alaska Representative Sara Hannan, one of the committee’s members, who kindly agreed to co-facilitate the session with MLA Hunter.  

Hawaii Senator Lynn DeCoite and Montana Senator Mike Cuffe

A growing number of utilities join Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) for better planning

Rikki Seguin, Executive Director of Interwest Energy Alliance, explained that a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) is an electric power transmission operator that coordinates, controls, and monitors a regional electric grid and is a critical tool for planning transmission. Seven RTOs and Independent System Operators (ISOs) nationwide cover two-thirds of the electricity consumed. Though states must maintain grid reliability and keep costs low, there is a need for more renewables and transmission lines, given that 80% of energy use in the West aligns with state-driven decarbonization policies.

Regulatory proceedings and state mandates in Western states are advancing progress toward RTOs. Colorado and Nevada have passed legislation signed by their Governors requiring utilities to join an RTO by 2030.

Suitable RTO structures are needed to enable grid reliability  

Vijay Satyal, Deputy Director of Regional Markets at Western Resource Advocates, worked in both Virginia and Oregon, first as Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality’s first policy economist and later as a senior policy analyst at the Oregon Department of Energy, where he advised the Governor’s Office on renewable energy and emerging grid technologies. Independence is one of the critical components Vijay highlighted; an independent and transparent board is pivotal for utilities to join. A model that is not profit-minded so costs can remain low and that creates consistent rules of the game for market operations. Investments in transmission and future needs are also necessary.

“A board that is independent and transparent is pivotal for utilities to join.”

Vijay Satyal, Deputy Director of Regional Markets, Western Resource Advocates

The Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) provides resource-neutral grid reliability across the western region

Kris Raper is Vice President of Strategic Engagement & External Affairs; she coordinates and oversees engagement with the resource-neutral Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC’s) strategic partners and stakeholders. Her background as commissioner for the Idaho Public Utilities Commission and as one of two Western representatives on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gives her a unique perspective.

Kris recalled the 2003 Northeast blackout that extended to the Midwestern United States and most parts of the Canadian province of Ontario in August. While this should have been a manageable situation, it was not due to an inability to redistribute energy loads. The Energy Policy Act in 2005 directly resulted from this event as the need to ensure reliability and transmission became priorities. WECC is a non-profit corporation that FERC has approved as the Regional Entity for the Western Interconnection, which includes 14 Western States, 2 Canadian Provinces, and Northern Baja California. She, too, agrees that governance is central to how RTOs operate.

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Enhancing Reforms in Public Safety: Juvenile Justice

Public Safety Committee Recap:

Alaska Senator Matt Claman, co-chair of the CSG West Public Safety Committee, was graciously joined by Washington Senator Jesse Salomon. CSG West thanks Senator Salomon for stepping in to present legislative efforts and co-facilitate the session.

Addressing gaps in juvenile justice to identify a path forward 

Ben Eikey, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy, and Senator Jesse Salomon (WA) presented data and legislative perspectives on juvenile justice reform, including:

  • Reducing juvenile incarceration rates
  • Increasing diversion from the juvenile justice system
  • Reducing recidivism
  • Addressing mental and behavioral health issues
  • Increasing data sharing
Left to right: Speaker Ben Eikey and Alaska Senator Jesse Salomon.

Eikey provided a historical perspective going back to the 1990s when there was a growing nationwide sentiment to be tough on crime. Following this period, there was a rampant increase in trying 16 and 17-year-olds as adults. Texas even created a maximum-security prison for juveniles. Approximately 4,000 youths were in detention centers for low-level offenses such as delinquency, skipping school, and petty theft. In 2006, state legislatures began hearing testimony, including the impact on the mental health and suicide rates of juveniles incarcerated in adult prisons.

A trajectory of progress: Connecticut case study

In Connecticut, a joint bipartisan committee was dedicated solely to evaluating policies related to the juvenile justice system, including recommendations on how to reduce juvenile incarceration rates, increase diversion from the juvenile justice system, reduce recidivism, and address mental and behavioral health issues. 

Between 2015 and 2018, enacted legislation eliminated mandatory minimums for low-level drug offenses, strengthened visitation policies for all prisoners with children under age 18, raised the age of juvenile justice jurisdiction to 21, prohibited discrimination in employment, housing, public education, insurance, and government program and services based on criminal history. View their dashboard here to track progress and legislation.

Senator Salomon shared Washington House Bill 1324 concerning scoring prior juvenile offenses in sentencing range calculations. The bill intended to enact the juvenile justice system’s goals of rehabilitation and reintegration. Some of those goals included bringing Washington in line with most states that do not consider prior juvenile offenses in sentencing range calculations for adults. The reason for not doing so is the expansive body of scientific research on brain development. Specifically, an adolescent’s perception, judgment, and decision-making differ significantly from that of adults. Another reason is facilitating due process within the juvenile court system. Members expressed great interest in this legislation and shared their states’ efforts and experiences addressing it.

Improving Outcomes for Youth (IOYouth) – CSG Justice Center

The CSG Justice Center provides valuable juvenile justice resources. The Improving Outcomes for Youth (IOYouth) works with state and local jurisdictions to align their policies, practices, and resource allocation with what research shows works to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for youth while enhancing public safety. You can access many resources here: CSG Improving Youth Outcomes Program Juvenile Justice Equity Dashboard.

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Decoding School Funding Formulas

Education Committee Recap

In today’s educational landscape, it is crucial to comprehend the mechanisms that underpin school funding. Presenters Michael Griffith and Justin Silverstein guided audience members through a comprehensive examination of school funding formula structures, including attributes of a high-quality formula, variations in funding across states, and emerging issues in school finance.

Speaker Justin Silverstein discussing emerging issues in school funding.
Education funding ranges considerably

The composition of K-12 funding reflects a national average distribution—42.5% local, 44.3% state, and 13.2% federal for the fiscal year 2021-22. Notably, disparities emerge when examining state-level variations, with local funding ranging from 2.0% to 61.7%, state funding from 29.5% to 85.4%, and federal funding from 6.5% to 24.0%.

“Notably, disparities emerge when examining state-level variations, with local funding ranging from 2.0% to 61.7%, state funding from 29.5% to 85.4%, and federal funding from 6.5% to 24.0%.”

-Michael Griffith, Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst at Learning Policy Institute

Predictability ensures administrators can anticipate funding changes 

The core of school funding lies in the formulation of a funding formula where primary and categorical funding sources intersect. High-quality funding formulas aspire to be adequate and equitable but also flexible, adaptable, and predictable. The emphasis on predictability ensures that administrators can anticipate funding changes based on shifts in student populations.


Adaptability in funding formulas comes with a cautionary note–as policy choices increase, the flexibility available to districts diminishes 

Foundation formulas, a prevalent approach, multiply a foundation amount by a weighted student count to determine total funding. This foundation amount varies across states, ranging from $4,015 to $11,525, and can be determined based on research, past expenditures, educational inputs, or the state’s financial capacity. Funding weights are additional resources allocated to high-need student groups like at-risk or special education students. The formula’s final step involves dividing total foundation funding by a district’s ability to pay, yielding state foundation funding.

The widespread adoption of foundation formulas stems from their practicality, offering states and districts an easily adjustable mechanism that balances educational objectives with economic realities. Yet, this adaptability comes with a cautionary note – as policy choices increase, the flexibility available to districts diminishes, emphasizing the delicate balance between standardization and local autonomy in the pursuit of effective school funding.

“Costing Out Studies” can determine resources for students to meet standards 

Emerging issues in school funding include Costing Out Studies, which determine resources needed for students to meet state standards, and debates on prescriptive targeted funds for special needs populations. Approaches like “professional judgment,” “evidence-based,” “education-cost function,” and “successful school districts” offer varying perspectives and methodologies in implementing these studies.

Professional Judgment Approach

The Professional Judgment Approach relies on educators’ insights, adapting to state standards but lacking a specific tie to current performance outcomes, causing skepticism among stakeholders.

Evidence-Based Approach

The Evidence-Based Approach delves into academic research, creating prototypes reviewed by state-level educators. While research-based, it may lack state-specific context.

Education Cost Function Approach

The Education Cost Function Approach establishes a link between costs and outcomes through state-collected data, requiring high-quality data but offering a strong empirical foundation.

Successful School Districts Approach

The Successful School Districts Approach analyzes resource models of high-performing schools, providing a clear link between costing out results and performance, albeit with limitations on estimating special needs populations.

Multiple Approaches

Using multiple approaches allows triangulation of results and enhanced analysis. Prescriptive Funding Policies involve balancing flexibility and interventions, with some states imposing guardrails and specific requirements, such as Nevada and Maryland. At-Risk/Poverty Counts have evolved, with direct certification and census block data gaining prominence to identify students’ needs accurately. The landscape reflects a complex interplay of methodologies and policies aimed at ensuring equitable and effective school funding.

Colorado Representative Jennifer Bacon facilitating the Education Committee session.

Legislators discuss school funding

A diverse panel of Western legislators related school funding topics to their respective states, sharing challenges, opportunities, and insights. Panelists included:

Alaska Representative Alyse Galvin
Member, House Finance Committee
California Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi
Chair, Assembly Committee on Education
Nevada Senator Marilyn Dondero Loop
Chair, Senate Finance Committee
Washington Representative Kristine Reeves
Co-Sponsor, HB 1436, Funding Special Education
Washington Senator Claire Wilson
Chair, Senate Human Services Committee
Vice-Chair, Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee
Left to right: Alaska Representative Alyse Galvin, California Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, Nevada Senator Marilyn Dondero Loop, and Washington Senator Claire Wilson
Adequately funding institutional education

Among the many topics highlighted, Senator Claire Wilson discussed efforts to fund institutional education within Washington’s juvenile justice system. Acknowledging historic K-12 investments following the state’s 2018 McCleary decision, she conversely described a critical lack of funding for justice-involved youth students.

Notably, Senator Wilson shared that most students in Washington’s institutional facilities qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), therefore necessitating special education services.

As co-chair of Washington’s Joint Select Committee on Governance and Funding for Institutional Education, Wilson detailed current and upcoming committee work to address shortfalls in institutional funding. The committee is tasked with examining and evaluating revisions to statutes, funding formulas, funding sources, and operating and capital budget appropriation to assign delineated basic education responsibilities to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. With a special focus on adequately funding juvenile justice students, the Select Committee will be reporting back to the Governor and the Legislature by December 1, 2024.

Teacher retention and inflationary challenges

Representative Alyse Galvin described Alaska’s teacher retainment challenges, contending that reinstatement of a defined benefit retirement program would support enhanced retention. Following the state’s switch from defined benefits to a defined contribution, Galvin asserts that significant numbers of educators complete their training years in Alaska, then transfer their portable retirement account to a new state for further career building.

Representative Galvin also highlighted the inflationary impact on Alaska’s K-12 funding. She provided data illustrating the Base Student Allocation (BSA) from fiscal years 2012-2023, in which the BSA of $5,930 in FY23 has a FY12 value of $4,776 when adjusted for inflation. With the actual 2012 BSA of $5,680, Galvin emphasized the added strain inflation has placed on current resource allocation, asserting that education budget considerations must reflect rising costs.

At the centerpiece of her comments, Galvin maintained that building greater “trust” among the legislature, executive branch, school districts, and educators is paramount for effectively funding student education.

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In Memoriam: Former Washington Rep. Sherry Appleton (1942-2023)

The CSG West family is mourning the loss of former Washington Representative Sherry Appleton, who represented her state’s 23rd district from 2005-2021. A member of the Western Legislative Academy Class of 2007 and the CSG Toll Fellowship Class of 2008, Representative Appleton was highly engaged with CSG West throughout her legislative tenure. She served as chair of the Public Safety Committee (2019-2020), a member of the Executive Committee (2015-2020), and twice as a member of the Canada Relations Committee. She also attended each of the CSG West Annual Meeting from 2015 – 2020. 

During 16 years in the Washington House of Representatives, Representative Appleton was elected to chair two committees – Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs, and Local Government. Representative Appleton was honored as Legislator of the Year by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and as Humane Legislator of the Year by the Washington State Humane Society. Upon her retirement in 2021, she described some of her legislative highlights as drafting and passing Washington’s patient bill of rights and helping to create the state’s “Silver Alert.”

Representative Appleton was also appointed by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to serve as an advisor to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Further, she was appointed to the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission and chaired the Commission’s Juvenile Sentencing Committee.

CSG West expresses its sincere condolences to the family and colleagues of former Representative Appleton, along with others who had the opportunity to know and collaborate with her over the years. A true embodiment of public service, she will be deeply missed.

For further reading about the life of Former Representative Appleton, please see this news story.

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