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Education Department Panel to Explore Fiscal Fairness

Remember the U.S. Department of Education's blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act? It included a line about seeking greater "fiscal equity" in schools, but few specifics on exactly how to work through that tricky issue.

Reauthorization doesn't look like it's moving this year, but the Education Department, at the behest of two congressmen, is establishing a 15-member commission to explore the fiscal-equity question. Nominations for panelists were due last week.

The commission, which will be run by the department's Office of Civil Rights, is slated to work for about 15 months. It's unclear whether the panel will finish its recommendations in time for them to be incorporated into reauthorization of ESEA, which U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said he'd like to move early next year. But its deliberations may still be worth watching.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., who sits on the very powerful panel that that makes spending decisions for the department helped set up the commission, and explained the reasons for it here. He worked on the legislation with Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., who has introduced bill on salary comparability, always a hot issue when you're talking about fiscal equity. The bill would require school districts to take teachers' salaries into account when ensuring that all schools get their fair share of funding.

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