Archive for Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Equity issues cited in Gov. Sam Brownback’s school finance plan

November 8, 2011


— Gov. Sam Brownback’s school finance plan will place more of the job of funding education on local taxpayers and widen the disparity between rich and poor school districts, several State Board of Education members said Tuesday.

“I think you’re going to have a really big equity problem,” said Board member Sally Cauble, a Republican from Liberal.

Her comment was made during a discussion with Brownback’s policy director Landon Fulmer, who spoke with the Education Board for nearly an hour and a half.

Cauble was referring to a portion of Brownback’s plan that would allow local districts to raise as much for schools from local property taxes as voters in that district would allow. Currently there is a cap on the amount of local property taxes for schools.

Brownback’s plan would also allow local districts to approve sales taxes for schools.

Board member Jana Shaver, R-Independence, whose district covers some of the poorest regions of the state, said relying on increased local taxes “for our area is an unequalizing concept.”

And several board members questioned Brownback’s proposal to set a floor of state funding support for schools, which equals about half the state budget, when Brownback’s supporters are pushing for elimination of the state income tax.

Fulmer said he didn’t want to get into Brownback’s as-yet-to-be released tax plan, but hinted that it would not have a drastic impact on state revenues. “The goal would not be to have a plan in place that just slashes future spending,” Fulmer said.

Brownback has said the school finance formula needs an overhaul because it is under constant litigation.

“I am tired, and I don’t think it is effective, that the system and the money has been decided by the courts for the last 20 years instead of the Legislature,” Brownback said in brief comments to reporters earlier Tuesday.

But much of the legal wrangling has been over equity issues, ensuring that children in low wealth districts have similar educational opportunities as those in high wealth districts.

Fulmer said Brownback’s plan would provide equalization through a proposal to reduce the state mandated mill levy and then take the money that would be collected and place it into a special revenue fund for distribution to equalize for discrepancy in property tax values. “We equalize on the front end,” he said.

But Education Board members said the other aspects of Brownback’s plan — removing the cap on school property taxes and allowing local sales taxes — had the effect of disequalizing funding. On the sales tax proposal, the funding would be distributed to the school districts operating in the participating counties.

Other components of Brownback’s plan include:

• A standard per-student payment made to each school district in a lump sum. The per student amount would be determined by the Legislature.

• Block grants would be made available to schools with the Legislature determining the amount of each block grant. Block grants would be designed to help rural districts, at-risk students, increase technical and career education, provide teacher incentives and education innovations.

Fulmer said Brownback’s proposal is nearly complete. “It’s concrete that is not totally wet but is not totally solid yet,” he said.

Board Chairman David Dennis, R-Wichita, said the impact of the plan will be easier to discern once runs are made to show how it would affect each school district. He said he hoped that would be done within the month.

“It all boils down to dollars,” Dennis said.

Schools have been hit hard during the recession. Base state aid per pupil has been cut from $4,400 per student in 2008-09 to $3,780 per student in the current school year.


harryuhl 6 years, 5 months ago

Bill Gates is right, all we need to do now is establish testing mechanisms that allow for individuals to demonstrate their knowledge without attaching the enormous debt that comes from a "traditional" university education that is why I like High Speed Universities research online.

question4u 6 years, 5 months ago

“The goal would not be to have a plan in place that just slashes future spending,” Fulmer said.

To fully reflect the governor's goals the plan must also raise property taxes, create disparity between the quality of education in rich and poor districts and benefit the wealthy. After all, what's the point of "slashing" if you don't get something good out of it?

chootspa 6 years, 5 months ago

Yes, this. It's not like the biggest problem with the American education system is inconsistent results for some ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Oh wait... Why not make the problem worse?

question4u 6 years, 5 months ago

“I am tired, and I don’t think it is effective, that the system and the money has been decided by the courts for the last 20 years instead of the Legislature,” Brownback said in brief comments to reporters earlier Tuesday.

Finally, something intelligent comes out of the mouth of Flim-Flam Sam (even if it is unintentional). Yes, it is tiring, not to mention despicable, that legislators show so little conscience regarding fair funding of schools that the legal system has to be invoked. The American legal system exists to ensure justice, despite the "Boss Tweed" politics that government officials might want to practice. It's certainly sad that justice is not on the minds of more legislators.

Why can't legislators do the right thing? Could it have something to do with the ethics of people like Mike O'Neal and the intelligence of those like Virgil Peck and Anthony Brown? Could it have something to do with the fact that we have a governor who will stubbornly defend the hiring of officials with false academic credentials.

KSManimal 6 years, 5 months ago

“I am tired, and I don’t think it is effective, that the system and the money has been decided by the courts for the last 20 years instead of the Legislature,” Brownback said

Yet....his plan pushes in exactly the direction that has been ruled - repeatedly - to violate the state constitution.

Here's what he's really up to: there is a lawsuit pending right now. Brownie knows that all he has to do to make that lawsuit go away is CHANGE THE FORMULA. Regardless of HOW the formula changes, it becomes a different formula and thus renders the pending litigation MOOT. When a new lawsuit is filed, simply repeat this strategy and the state never has to sack up and meet its constitutional obligations.

Even though Brownie's plan is obviously unconstitutional, it will serve it's intended purposes: 1) sabotage the current litigation; 2) free up dollars for giving away to his corporate sponsors; 3) exacerbating the current inequities between the rich & the poor; 4) undermine the ability of public schools to teach kids stuff like basic economics, government, and science - knowledge of which would turn them against the Brownie world view.

Kookamooka 6 years, 5 months ago

Tired? Governing is not for the weak Brownback. Maybe you should take a nap.

Dave Trabert 6 years, 5 months ago

The last sentence in this story only focuses on a portion of state funding. According to the Kansas Division of the Budget, state funding for the Department of Education (the vast majority of which goes to schools each year) was $2.324 billion in 2005. By 2009, it was $3.147 billion. Last year it was $2.972 billion and this year is budgeted at $3.048 billion.

Current funding to the Dept. of Education is just 3.1% less than its 2009 peak but is 31.2% higher than in 2005. Districts also did not spend all of their state and local tax dollars over the last three years; their carryover cash reserves in operating funds increased by $281 million.

I don't doubt that teachers and other school employees feel the change but districts have the cash on hand from unspent prior year taxes to avoid cutting teachers and programs. There are also other cost-saving measures they could have chosen to avoid impacting classrooms.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Schools were grossly underfunded in 2005, and there were court rulings that affirmed that. The increases over the last several years were a direct result of the courts telling the legislature that they couldn't ignore the state constitution.

Dredging up that number as a justification to trash the schools all over again just doesn't cut it.

(If the Koch Bros. get a big tax cut at the expense of schools, do you get a big raise?)

chootspa 6 years, 5 months ago

Ah yes, here's Dave Trabert, president of the Koch-funded libertarian group, Kansas Policy Institute, member of ALEC ( ), sponsor of an astroturf campaign for charter schools, and citer of misleadingly framed government statistics extraordinaire.

He's not here to provide any insight in the governor's terrible plan to exacerbate unequal funding and further widen the achievement gap. Instead he's here to red herring about the funding levels in 2005.

headdoctor 6 years, 5 months ago

The translation of all this vague and ambiguous speak from Governor Brownback. School districts/property owners across Kansas should bite the pillow. Here comes Governor Brownback.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

The legislature determined the suitable amount of funding, and then failed to live up to it.

That's why the courts got involved in the first place.

Bruce Janssen 6 years, 5 months ago

This is rich, Dave. When you Republicans want to bash the president, you speak of the threats of higher taxes and more regulations being at the root of current high unemployment. "Washington policies have created a fog of uncertainty that’s left small businesses unable to hire," said John Boehner back in September. Well, Dave, uncertainty is something every school board in the state has been living with since you guys decided that appropriate levels of funding for public education didn't square with your ideology. The upshot has been been that some districts have decided to keep a little money in the bank because of the misgivings associated with school finance. I gather that in business the hesitancy to spend is understandable and for Kansas schools the hesitancy to spend is indefensible.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 5 months ago

"I don't doubt that teachers and other school employees feel the change but districts have the cash on hand from unspent prior year taxes to avoid cutting teachers and programs." === A point worth discussion, perhaps, but you can only eat the seed corn once. If districts spend down their reserves and state funds don't arrive on time each month, some of them won't be able to make payroll without their reserves. The money is also used to pay special education bills and food service bills early in the school year when there may not be other money available. The gov is slick, but the only real agenda is to reduce state spending and dump the difference on the locals. If this works for schools, it will probably work in other areas: "Hey, want to keep your rest home or hospital open? Raise local taxes."

Mike1949 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't understand, why hasn't any one started recall for brownback? 95% of Kansas would be behind the recall (well, maybe not the republican controlled house & senate). Doesn't he realize that he is going to be a one term governor and the next elected governor (probably a Democrat) is going to have to undo all, and I mean all the damage and destruction he is doing to Kansas? Or is that his plan, he hopes the idiots in the state house and senate will fight tooth an nail to destroy Kansas as a "use to be half way nice place to live"!

chootspa 6 years, 5 months ago

Because they changed the law, and now incompetence isn't a reason you can recall someone.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 5 months ago

Mike1949: Not liking his policies is not grounds for recall. We need to get the voters involved, most particularly next August during the primaries. Muscular Sam doesn't really believe in government as we know it. Just read up on the C-Street Cult (aka "The Family.") They have been training him since the 1970's and have been in 'business' since the 1930's. 8000,000+ people didn't even bother last time when they had a chance to vote. 30-some percent of those eligible to vote put the gov in office. We can't whine now; just try to elect new people when the chance presents itself.

tomatogrower 6 years, 5 months ago

No surprise here. Since when does Brownback give a flip about poorer people? They didn't give him lots of money to run for office. They aren't going to make him rich.

chootspa 6 years, 5 months ago

Making the education system worse is part of his agenda. Any worsening of outcomes means he's free to try something "new." That way he can syphon taxpayer money off to his corporate buddies wanting to start charters and further one of the ALEC agenda items.

oldbaldguy 6 years, 5 months ago

Ask anybody in the know in Linn County, they will tell you Brownback is a snake. On the other hand, he was elected by a majority voting. If the Dems can't put someone up with a chance to be elected, this is what you get.

Joe Hyde 6 years, 5 months ago

I think around the state people are reading about Gov. Brownback's endorsement of the drastic concept of killing the state's income tax, and they're remembering the reduction he already ordered in the amount of per-student state financial support given to public schools, and they're thinking hard about the future employment chances of their children and grandchildren and they're beginning to realize, "Uh, Houston, we've got a problem."

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