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Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

House rejects bill giving control to school boards

March 30, 2002

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— The House has rejected a bill giving school boards more authority and providing more state aid to districts with declining enrollments.

Members voted Friday 67-55 against the measure, despite having decided to advance it to final action the day before.

The bill states that a local board "shall have the power to transact business for the efficient and effective use of district resources in a manner and upon such terms and conditions as the board deems to be in the best interest of the school district."

Current law requires that boards ask legislators for grants of specific powers, such as the authority to enter into agreements with other districts to provide services.

The bill seemed to have momentum Thursday because of the provision to help school districts with declining enrollment. About two-thirds of Kansas' 303 school districts are experiencing declines.

Under the bill, such districts would have received additional state aid by subtracting their 2002 enrollments from the 1994 totals. A school's enrollment then would be adjusted by one-fifth of that figure, resulting in extra money. For example, a district that had lost 100 students would be able to add back 20 to its 2002 enrollment figure.

The provision came at a cost of $17.7 million.

However, unless legislators put more money into elementary and secondary education, school officials said the result would be the same amount of money spread over a higher statewide school enrollment  and a $30 cut in the base state aid per pupil of $3,870. The state spends about $2.3 billion on public schools.

House Minority Leader Jim Garner, D-Coffeyville, said the provision is similar to the idea among legislators that they can hold education harmless by not cutting base state aid in the 2003 budget.

Garner said that without new revenue, many districts losing students would see their dollars shift to growing districts.

That loss, he said, would force cuts in programs, larger class sizes and cutting staff unless districts opt to raise local property taxes.

Local control is SB 409.

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