Archive for Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brownback unveils new school finance plan, focuses on local property taxes

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, pictured in January, unveiled Wednesday a finance overhaul that would let local taxpayers raise property taxes as high as they wanted for education. The proposal received both comments of praise and concern from State Board of Education members.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, pictured in January, unveiled Wednesday a finance overhaul that would let local taxpayers raise property taxes as high as they wanted for education. The proposal received both comments of praise and concern from State Board of Education members.

December 14, 2011, 9:02 a.m. Updated December 14, 2011, 12:57 p.m.


— A huge battle over school funding started Wednesday as Gov. Sam Brownback unveiled a finance overhaul that would let local taxpayers raise property taxes as high as they wanted for education.

“Our proposal is a modern formula that will provide districts the flexibility that is necessary to meet today’s challenges, prepare tomorrow’s opportunities and excel in education,” Brownback said in a prepared statement.

But Brownback’s plan quickly came under fire. Advocates for school funding said the proposal failed to restore cuts, that it would spread dollars in an unequal manner and would result in some districts being left in the dust.

“Under the Brownback plan, school funding will be permanently locked in at an inadequately low level despite increasing state revenue,” said Karen Godfrey, vice president of the Kansas NEA. “There will be no adjustments for increases due to inflation. If there’s any change in a school’s demographics, Brownback is saying, ‘too bad,’” she said.

State Board of Education member Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., said: “I’m really concerned about my districts. They are already in serious trouble. Raising the local effort would be extremely challenging.”

But several others on the board praised Brownback’s proposal, saying it would create stability in funding.

“It appears there has been a really strong effort to make the formula fair, and it is infinitely more understandable than the current formula, and remarkably it increases funding for education during a very difficult time,” said board member Kenneth Willard, a Republican from Hutchinson.

Big fight awaits

Brownback’s push to change the way the state distributes approximately $3 billion per year to schools is sure to be one of the biggest fights of the 2012 legislative session, which starts Jan. 9.

The divide over the issue started to emerge at a meeting of the State Board of Education as Brownback’s policy director Landon Fulmer laid out the proposal.

Currently, school districts may increase through local property taxes an amount up to approximately 30 percent of its state aid.

But Brownback’s plan would remove that cap, allowing for “unlimited local control of property taxes for educational purposes.”

The proposal would also do away with “weightings” that are used to provide school districts additional funds for transportation costs, bilingual education, students who are at risk of failing and other factors that increase the cost of education. Brownback said his plan would provide additional funding through a “supplemental equalization fund” and give school superintendents more discretion in how dollars are spent.

Brownback proposes delaying implementation of the plan until the 2013-14 school year and leaving in place for one more school year the current level of base state aid of $3,780 per pupil, which is the lowest level in a decade.

Once the new plan is put into place, Brownback said it will cost an additional $45 million in base state aid, which is approximately 2 percent more than what is spent now. Under the plan, no district would receive less money than it receives currently, and about half would receive more, he said.

Lawrence stays the same after years of cuts

According to a spreadsheet of funding for school districts provided by the governor’s office, the Lawrence school district would see no change in its total funding between the current formula and the one being proposed by Brownback. In addition, Baldwin City would see no increase.

But those amounts could go up if the local school boards approved local property tax increases. Eudora would have an increase of $615,286 in a nearly $11 million budget under Brownback’s plan.

Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll said he was disappointed that after three years of drastic cuts, there is “no real new money flowing into it at all.”

He said removing the cap on local dollars helps Lawrence but will cause funding inequities across the state. He said he was glad that Brownback canned an earlier proposal to allow local sales tax increases for schools.

Many of the state’s larger, urban and suburban districts with high concentrations of low-income families or students requiring help with learning English would receive no additional funds from the state under the plan.

Mark Tallman, a representative of the Kansas Association of School Boards, said that was a problem.

He said the Brownback plan had “a lack of sensitivity” to changing student populations. If a district were to start seeing an increase in at-risk students, “nothing in this formula would respond to that,” he said.

Small, rural districts fare better

Small, rural and low-property-wealth districts did better under the Brownback plan than larger districts with large numbers of low-income students, he said.

Several Education Board members also said that Brownback’s so-called “hold harmless” provision, where no district gets less funding than current levels, isn’t adequate because schools have suffered significant cuts in base state aid over the past several years.

Democrats say Brownback off base

Brownback, a Republican, however, pushed his proposal, saying, “Our current K-12 funding formula is broken.”

Democrats disagreed.

“We believe the governor is focused on the wrong problem. The current formula doesn’t need to be fixed, just funded,” said Kansas Democratic Party Chair Joan Wagnon.

Some education advocates have been wary of proposals giving local districts more authority to raise taxes, saying that will increase the gap between rich and poor districts and make the finance system unconstitutional. Brownback said his plan will distribute the state-mandated property tax of 20 mills in a way that will help equalize funding between rich and poor districts.

A group of school districts suing the state has said the current school finance formula is OK but the state has failed to fund it at an adequate level.

Fulmer, the governor’s policy director, criticized the lawsuit, saying the state simply doesn’t have the $700 million to $1 billion that the districts say is required.

Brownback has said he wants to change the formula to break the cycle of litigation, but the attorney representing the suing school districts and students said Brownback’s plan would invite more litigation.

John Robb said Brownback’s proposal moves away from a cost-based system, eliminates “weights” to provide funding to children whose education costs more, freezes budgets for schools over half the state, and allows unlimited local taxation without statewide equalization.

“In medicine they say, ‘First, do no harm.’ This does harm to Kansas kids,” he said.


Paul R Getto 6 years, 5 months ago

"...allow local taxpayers to raise property taxes " A constitutional attorney's dream this is. And, note the irony; the same people who often say "money doesn't matter for schools" are now telling the locals to raise more money because it does matter. Which is it Sam?

sourpuss 6 years, 5 months ago

Yay! Now the rich neighborhoods will FINALLY have better schools than the poor, rural regions! It's about time. gag

Chris Golledge 6 years, 5 months ago

That is about what I was thinking. This sounds like a ploy to take pressure off the state for educational funding, which would make it so that there is more disparity between rich and poor areas.

kochmoney 6 years, 5 months ago

Not to mention that those pesky at-risk and bilingual kids will now have less money. Stick it to the brown people, Sam.

kochmoney 6 years, 5 months ago

He's busy enacting laws to prevent brown elementary school students from fraudulently voting.

kshiker 6 years, 5 months ago

Brilliant (mocking). Let's eliminate the state income tax and then put the entire responsiblity for funding local and state government on the backs of property owners through exponentially increasing property taxes.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 5 months ago

This might be a good thing, marginal districts can now be absorbed into more efficient ones. Consolidation is something that has been needed for a long time. When there are to many baseball teams, then their is a lack of quality pitching. Same could be said of the educational system, to many districts waters down the talent pool of teachers.

We all have to do more with less. Seems to me that when you dig up the money tree, people are forced to make good decisions and use sound judgement about how that smaller pile of revenue is consumed. Without doing much research, seems to me that if there were competent people on the school boards, we might be able to increase the quality of education, while decreasing the impact on the property owner.

jhawk926 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't disagree with your 2nd paragraph. Unfortunately, so often we have people getting on school boards with personal agendas (usually centered around getting rid of administrators or a coach) instead of looking at educating our youth. Too sad.

deec 6 years, 5 months ago

Consolidating districts would be very difficult in the rural areas. How many miles/hours should we expect young children to travel to get to school?

Paul R Getto 6 years, 5 months ago

Good point, and many have been on buses for an hour or more for years. Garden City, with a 900 square mile district is just one example. If we consolidate too much, they will need boarding schools in parts of Western and Northwestern Kansas. It's a tough problem, but the educational system is our crown jewel and we must preserve as much as we can.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm tired of hearing people say we need to do more with less. The logical extension of that bs statement is "I've done so much with so little for so long so quickly, I know can do everything with nothing instantly."

The argument is just another meaningless bumper sticker. It sounds good but doesn't fit with reality.

gudpoynt 6 years, 5 months ago

"I know can do everything with nothing instantly"


hyperinflate 6 years, 5 months ago

For all you Baldwin CIty residents out there, get ready to spread them cheeks. The School Board has made no bones about a willingness to raise the local option budget as high as it could go under the limits of the law. I'm sure they are positively salivating at the possibility of no limit to the amount they could raise it.

wastewatcher 6 years, 5 months ago

A very good plan for one simple reason. It allows people to vote to spend their own money to educate the children in their communities, or not spend the money. It will be interesting to follow and see how the LIBERALS vote when it comes to their own pocketbook and not someone elses.

KSManimal 6 years, 5 months ago

A very bad plan for one simple reason: it violates the state constitution.

It is the state's job, not local government's job, to finance public education. Changing the law so local board's can raise their own money is NOT financing public education. It's passing the buck; a.k.a. the right wing party platform.

But the real reason for changing the formula is to render the pending litigation (which the state is sure to lose) moot. If a new formula is in place, the old litigation no longer applies even though it was valid. Since the anti-school cronies passed a law requiring six months notice of filing a school finance lawsuit; they will always have plenty of time to pull the same switcharoonie over and over again...and never be held accountable to upholding the state constitution - which they've all sworn to uphold.

coryweber 6 years, 5 months ago

The state, the state, the state... it must do everything, it will do everything, we rely on it, we need it. WE DEMAND IT!!!

Get over yourselves. The sky is not falling. You people (there, I said it) are gonna whine no matter what.

kochmoney 6 years, 5 months ago

You people (there, I said it) are gonna whine no matter what.

Ironic poster is ironic.

kochmoney 6 years, 5 months ago

You people (there, I said it) are gonna whine no matter what.

Ironic poster is ironic.

George_Braziller 6 years, 5 months ago

Brownback can't just decide on his own to change the Constitution of the State of Kansas. The legislature can't change the constitution either. Any changes require a state-wide vote.

1: Schools and related institutions and activities. The legislature SHALL (my emphasis) provide for intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement by establishing and maintaining public schools, educational institutions and related activities which may be organized and changed in such manner as may be provided by law.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 5 months ago

The conservative nut bags have dominated state spending for decades. It ain't the liberals or the progressives that have been spending your money.

gudpoynt 6 years, 5 months ago

i have a feeling that has slipped the minds of many Kansans

gudpoynt 6 years, 5 months ago

"It allows people to vote to spend their own money to educate the children in their communities"

A law doesn't allow people to spend their own money. Having money allows them to spend their own money.

That's the main complaint. Like most Republican policies, those who benefit the most from this policy are those with the fewest poor people around.

Katara 6 years, 5 months ago

As if any should be surprised that this was Brownback's plan...

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

Gov Sam Brownback has cut services big time and reduced school spending?

Where is that money? Where are our tax dollars?

Does anyone know? We need to know what is going on.

IF we larger school districts must provide more funding I WANT my tax dollars sent back to me!

I do not trust Governor Sam Brownback with MY tax dollars! He is neither fiscal conservative nor socially responsible = fiscal wreck.

KS 6 years, 5 months ago

When I see the school districts tearing down schools and then building a new one very close by or in its place, my first thought is that the districts have too much money. If new classrooms produce a better product, the kids coming out of the public schools should be pretty smart. Hummmmm? What I see is the same ole dumb product.

sourpuss 6 years, 5 months ago

Then your "first thought" is wrong. South Jr. High was a terrible building and needed to be replaced. Repairing or replacing infrastructure does NOT mean you have "too much money." Having a dry, safe environment for kids to learn in is important. Considering how little research or thought you seem to have put into your opinions, why are you expecting more out of the kids.

And I think many kids are VERY smart and they work hard. Sure, they aren't all that way, but they -never were.- Kids today have a complex world to live in, more things to learn, more ways to get into trouble, and more distractions. I think, overall, they are managing well. Maybe if 1 in 5 did not live in poverty, things might get better. Oh, right, no one cares about helping kids in poverty.

kochmoney 6 years, 5 months ago

Your first thought should be that financing is screwed up to the point that it's easier to finance new construction than it is to repair and maintain an old building.

mloburgio 6 years, 5 months ago

Kansas to pay $350,000 to settle lawsuit against Phill Kline

Kansas officials have agreed to have the state pay $350,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit against former state Attorney General Phill Kline.

Gov. Sam Brownback and top legislative leaders approved the settlement Wednesday. The money will go to Jacqie Spradling, a former senior prosecutor in Johnson County.

“This is a final settlement that will

Read more:

mloburgio 6 years, 5 months ago

Where is Kobach Our moonlighting secretary of state?

As I noted in a recent column, Kobach was alleged to have made $100,000, while secretary of state, as part of his involvement with Farmers Branch, Texas. The Federation of American Immigration Reform hired him to author an anti-immigration ordinance, according to the past mayor pro tem of that city.

But thanks to the Statement of Substantial Interests, filed in April 2011, we know of 10 others who have paid Kobach recently. Each represents income to Kobach of no less than $2,000.

Kobach received payment from the law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak, and Stewart, which claims to be one of America’s leading labor and employment law firms.

Kobach received payment from the city of Fremont, Neb., where he drafted an anti-illegal immigration ordinance.

Kobach received payment from Snell & Wilmer, a law firm in Arizona.

Kobach received payment from Maricopa County, Ariz., where he charged $300 an hour and a monthly stipend of $1,500 plus expenses, according to National Public Radio. Kobach had helped draft the famous anti-illegal laws of that state.

Kobach received payment by Digital Ally, Inc., which specializes in security cameras.

Kobach received payment from the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund in St. Louis, Mo., an organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly.

Kobach received payment from the 7th District Missouri Republican Assembly.

Kobach received payment from The Federalist Society, a very conservative legal organization.

Kobach received payment from CMP Susquehanna Corp. as a Sunday night radio talk show host for a station in Kansas City.

But the number one benefactor is the Immigration Reform Law Institute, where Kobach serves as counsel. This organization focuses on anti-illegal immigration reform across the United States. And it is a pot of money for Kobach that is presumably quite substantial.

In contrast, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback lists no outside income.

So egregious is Kobach’s moonlighting that Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis has introduced a bill banning significant outside employment for statewide officials and department heads, citing Kobach as the reason.

Although the bill will never get bi-partisan support, it makes the point that needs to be made. This is bad precedent for Kansas and an abuse of the secretary of state’s office.

Read more:

JackMcKee 6 years, 5 months ago

People are fleeing Kansas and it's not because of income taxes. It's because of right wing nuts like Sam Brownback .

JackMcKee 6 years, 5 months ago

How does this create stability? The real estate market has been anything but stable. There are so many things wrong with this idea. I don't even know where to start. Let's see , anyone else terrified of the county appraiser having more power over you taxes? Retirees, it's time you paid even more. You don't need that extra $250 per month do you?

Beth Bird 6 years, 5 months ago

This is a bad, bad, bad idea! The gap between the have's and the have not's just widened! The idea of public education was to level the playing field for children, regardless of their home situation.

JackMcKee 6 years, 5 months ago

Because for that to work you would have to convince voters in urban areas to accept insane levels of property taxes, which isn't going to happen. Even if they did, there are no jobs in the small towns you're talking about and without jobs nobody is moving to podunk Kansas. The best funding method for the state of Kansas is a three pronged approach of sales, income and property taxes.

kochmoney 6 years, 5 months ago

I read that as being only the first portion of property taxes, which would be mandated and then wealth redistributed. Maybe I misunderstood how this "simple" formula would work. You better believe that some of that wealth will be redistributed to the corporations wanting to launch their new charter school biz for a slice of that sweet pseudo competitive, free market illusion pie.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 5 months ago

+1 and BINGO, you win the prize. As part of this faith-based finance program, charters and vouchers, both unproven over time in various meta analyses of their performance relative to regular public schools, will be part of the package. Got some money or a corporate sugar daddy? You might be able to start your own school.

William Weissbeck 6 years, 5 months ago

To Brownback, modern means the 19th Century. Switching to a more heavily weighted property tax system will perpetuate isolationism and protectionism among Kansas school districts. Topeka is a classic example of what is to come. The 501 District's boundaries were fixed in the 60's, but the City has continued to grow beyond those boundaries. What were once small "rural" school districts on the edge of the city are now larger and more affluent than the city schools with most of the students actually residents of Topeka. 501 will continue to bleed as it has for 30 plus years as residents move to newer and larger homes outside the district or the city. 501 has no legal means to incorporate the entire city boundaries into the district. Another example in the City of Memphis where they have declared themselves insolvent and demanded that the county take over the schools. The county refuses, because it doesn't want the financial burden of the city to dilute the funding of its county school district.

ProfessorSeamus 6 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like the "Robin Hood" plan currently being challenged in Texas. So, just to make sure I understand, we want to revamp the funding to prevent additional litigation. To do this we are going with a method previously found to be unconstitutional in Kansas supplemented with a method currently in litigation in Texas. I don't see what could possibly go wrong.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

Where are the tax refunds? Brownback reduces budgets but not the amount of taxes flowing into the state cookie jars. Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

We're being duped by Governor Brownback who loves Norquist TABOR wreckanomics. Grab Your Wallets!

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