Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Attention again turns to school finance

Senators’ funding plan would lock in another year

Hayley Smith, 6, creates a flag of Japan during a lesson about the country in Judy Kettle's first-grade class at Wakarusa Valley School. Three state senators have proposed a $65 million extension of the court-mandated school finance package, but education officials say that amount is not enough.

Hayley Smith, 6, creates a flag of Japan during a lesson about the country in Judy Kettle's first-grade class at Wakarusa Valley School. Three state senators have proposed a $65 million extension of the court-mandated school finance package, but education officials say that amount is not enough.

January 9, 2008


State revenues short $33M in December

Topeka (ap) - State officials received some bad financial news just before the start of the 2008 legislative session.

Revenue collections for December fell $33.3 million short of expectations, according to a report released Tuesday by the Kansas Legislative Research Department.

The department's report said legislators and others should be careful not to read too much into a single month's revenue collections, but Senate President Steve Morris acknowledged, "That's not particularly good news."

The state expected to collect about $571 million in general revenues during the month, but took in only $538 million. It was more than enough to erase the small surplus the state had collected from July 1, when the 2008 fiscal year began, through November.

— Three key state senators Tuesday offered public schools another locked-in year of funding, but education advocates said the proposed $65 million increase was too little.

"By any measure, we don't believe this increase will be adequate; however, we do appreciate the effort to try, during a tight budget situation, to provide some stability," said Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

But Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, said, "The tradeoff is certainty versus more or less rolling the dice."

Here is the situation: Next school year will be the last of a three-year finance package that was crafted by state officials to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that called for more school funding.

When lawmakers start the 2008 legislative session on Monday they will debate whether to add another year of funding to that package and place it in a "lock-box" so that schools can plan ahead.

Schmidt said the $65 million that he and Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, and Senate Education Chairwoman Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, have is a reasonable compromise between lawmakers who want to spend more and lawmakers who want to spend less.

The $65 million increase for the 2009-10 school year would equate to a 2.2 percent increase, which would keep pace with inflation, he said. It would add $59 to base state aid per pupil. It wouldn't require a tax increase because of greater than expected growth in tax revenues, Schmidt said.

But Tallman, with the Kansas Association of School Boards, said keeping up with the inflation rate will accomplish little.

In order to address a teacher shortage, the state needs to increase funding to raise teacher salaries, Tallman said. Currently, Kansas ranks 38th in average teacher pay at $39,351 per year compared with the national average of $47,602.

And, he said, more funding is needed in order to meet the academic goals of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The State Board of Education has endorsed a plan calling for an additional $50 million for the next school year, on top of the $122 million increase already scheduled. These additional funds would go toward teacher salaries and phasing in full-day kindergarten. Then in 2009-10, schools would get an additional

$144 million increase under the education board recommendation. That is more than twice the $65 million proposal.

State legislative leaders have given the Education Board's recommendations a cool reception.

Lawrence schools Superintendent Randy Weseman said he appreciated Schmidt, Vratil and Schodorf making a proposal to lock in an additional year of funding.

"We need dollars for teacher salaries. That's one of our struggles and I think the state understands that," Weseman said.

He said if schools know two years in advance how much they are going to get then they can plan better.

But, Weseman said, he wasn't sure whether the level of funding under the Schmidt-Vratil-Schodorf plan would be adequate.

"It's probably a good start in terms of discussion," he said.


Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

Well funded public educatation will do more for economic growth than tax cuts and new highways. States that offer superb education systems are more attractive to economic growth(small business provides 70% of employment ) because the powers that be want the best opportunities for their off spring.

Listen to this

which airs deep concerns about extreme partisan leadership and where it has put the USA. It is a group of moderate republicans and democrats who find themselves on the same page. One of their concerns is the drop in the USA public schools rating to number 20 among other nations. Hey Kansas cut new road building funding and put the money where it provides the best bang for the buck....our children which is the future always.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 10 months ago

One solution to our failing government school system is to provide children and parents with true school choice. Allow families the option of using the dollars the government plans to spend on them each year at the high-performing, accredited school of their choice.

Then, I want a hand-written apology from each member of the Kansas Supreme Court for their audacity in actually setting a specific dollar figure(!) that our legislature needed to spend per annum on government education. Talk about a constitutional crisis!

KSManimal 7 years, 10 months ago

"high-performing, accredited school of their choice."

I assume you mean "Private School". Private schools can look good in comparison of grades, standardized tests, graduation rates, and so forth....because they can hand pick their students and throw out anyone who isn't performing. And, by their very nature, they have parents who are involved in their kid's education.

Let me set the record straight for you, STRS, the Supreme Court did not set a specific dollar figure for education spending. They did look at dollar figures provided BY THE LEGISLATURE ITSELF as to what amount of money is needed to provide the level of education guaranteed by the State's constitution. However, the legislature hasn't met that dollar amount.

Do your homework, Mr. STRS.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 10 months ago


It doesn't take much to look good compared to government schools.

With regard to the Supremes, I'll have to double-check the exact figure, but there was a price tag associated with their decision to legislate an increase to our taxes.

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