Southeast Kansas Superintendents Share Thoughts on Creating New Education Funding Formula

Southeast Kansas Superintendents Share Thoughts on Creating New Education Funding Formula
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School funding in Kansas is an issue that’s made it to the state supreme court. But even superintendents and school boards are trying to come up with a new formula that meets the fairness standard.

Pittsburg superintendent Destry Brown took a conference call discussing yet another funding formula plan. One of many that has education leaders talking.
Brown said, “Everybody’s trying to come up with a plan in this vacuum of ‘no formula’ in place.”

Block grants end this year. One plan Brown and other superintendents helped draft would take the basic levy for schools statewide from twenty mills to thirty-five mills. But it would eliminate the local option budget for districts. Spurring a debate over local control versus burden.

Galena superintendent Brian Smith thinks the proposal is a good one as a district burdened by high local mill levies. He said, “It may mean a loss of some control. But I guarantee you districts like Galena are more than happy to give ups some of their mill levy control cause we actually are more punished that other districts because of our low wealth so we’re willing to give up mill levies.
Brown said of meetings last week, “Wealthier districts, they see that as taking away a right.”

State Senator Jake LaTurner who represents southeast Kansans believes the plan is a good starting point and said, “The tax burden on poorer schools districts is going to be less. Equalization funding, making sure that southeast Kansas schools are on a level playing field has to be priority number one.”

It’s not just how funds are distributed. Kindergarten is all day at George Nettels elementary and in most Kansas schools . But only a half days is funded under the current formula.

Smith said, “We take money out of other places to fund that cause we know it’s a good program. Special ed’s another one not funded (fully) by either the feds or the state.”

State law says special education is to be funded at ninety-two percent but it’s only currently funded at eighty percent.

Brown says lawmakers who fund education in May, don’t want to have to do a supplemental appropriation due to growth in enrollment.
The plan addressed making funding based on the prior year enrollment.

S uperintendents also want base funding for students, which has dropped by six hundred dollars since 2008, restored. But the adequacy of funding for schools is still to be decided by the state supreme court. Justices will hear testimony on adequacy September 21 st , 2016. A ruling isn’t expected until December or January.

Still superintendents believe a new formula will happen.

Brown said, “Since the primary elections in August, the conversations have changed dramatically coming out of the Governor’s office. Now he’s gonna hear what people have to say about school finance. He never was willing to do that before.”