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Lawmakers Introduce Bill Aimed at 'Fiscal Fairness'

Salary Comparability could find its way into the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, thanks to a bill being introduced in Congress today.

The bill, which goes by the catchy-name of the "Fiscal Fairness Act' is sponsored in the House by Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., who has been working on this issue for quite a while. And it's been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., a former school superintendent, and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the son of public school educators. Read all about it here and here.

Salary comparability is one of the most confusing fiscal issues in education financing, which is full of confusing fiscal issues.

The cliffs notes version: In order to tap Title I dollars, districts have to show that Title I schools are getting their fair share of state and local funding. Obviously, teachers' salaries are a big expenditure. But, right now, all districts have to do is ensure that all teachers are on the same salary schedule, not that they are actually getting paid the same.

That."comparability loophole" has meant that schools that serve a lot of students in poverty often end up with a crop of lower-paid teachers, typically the youngest and most inexperienced of the bunch, critics say.

But, under the legislation, districts would have to take into account actual teachers' salaries at each school and make sure funding is equal at all schools before they can tap Title I dollars.

That could steer extra state and local money to high-poverty schools, enabling them to attract highly paid veterans, or hire more teachers so that novice educators don't have to deal with large classes in their first year or two.

The bill would also limit the amount of money that state and local spending can vary from school to school. Right now, there can be a difference of up to 10 percent, but under the bill, that would drop to 3 percent. And the legislation directs the Inspector General to conduct audits to make sure school districts are complying with the requirements.

The Education Trust, which advocates for poor and minority kids and has been championing salary comparability practically forever, applauded the measure.

"This legislation would bring basic fairness to budgeting by school districts, holding them accountable for using federal dollars as Congress intends," said Kati Haycock, president of the organization, in a statement.

Still confused about what salary comparability is? Can't say I blame you.

Luckily, the folks at the Center for American Progress have proved that there's nothing you can't make a YouTube video about.

Check it out:

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