Archive for Friday, March 2, 2012

Bipartisan school finance plan introduced in Senate

March 2, 2012


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Senate Bill 450 school finance plan ( .PDF )

— A bipartisan plan to increase funding to schools by $100 million over the next two years emerged Friday in the Senate and immediately came under fire from Gov. Sam Brownback.

The proposal has been crafted by the leaders of the Senate Education Committee — Chairwoman Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, Vice Chair John Vratil, R-Leawood, and ranking Democratic Anthony Hensley of Topeka — and stands in stark contrast to Brownback’s push to overhaul the school finance formula.

Schodorf said, “School finance is not just about a formula — it’s also about funding. Our plan not only makes a down-payment on restoring funding to our classrooms, but is also a wise investment in the future.”

A hearing on the proposal, Senate Bill 450, will be held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday before the Senate Education Committee.

After several years of cutting base state aid per pupil to its lowest level in a decade, the measure would increase base state aid by $50 million for each of the next two years.

That would result in increasing base state aid per student from $3,780 to $3,854 in the 2012-13 school year, and then to $3,928 in the 2013-14 school year, for a total increase of $148 for base state aid per pupil. The Lawrence school district would receive nearly $2.1 million more in additional funds under the proposal.

Funding for the measure would come from the state’s projected ending balance for the next fiscal year, which is currently expected to be about $390 million.

The proposal would also allow school districts to increase the local portion of their budgets supported by local property taxes from 31 percent of base state aid to 33 percent next year and then 35 percent the year after that. These increases would be subject to protest petitions and a public vote.

Brownback, a Republican, has proposed revamping the school finance formula to eliminate state limits on local property taxes for education. His plan also includes no increase for the next school year and would junk the current system of providing additional funding, or weights, for specific educational circumstances, such as teaching children who have not yet learned English.

“Our state’s current funding formula is broken,” said Brownback’s spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag. “More money without reform is not the solution,” she said.

But key legislators have said Brownback’s plan should be held over for a year to provide time for additional study. In addition to pumping in more dollars, SB 450 would continue the current system of weighted funding.

Sen. Vratil said adequately funding schools was vital to the state. “Ultimately, this is about economic growth, jobs and local control,” he said.

Hensley said schools have endured seven rounds of cuts in three years. “As a result, local school boards have been forced to increase fees, increase class sizes and increase local property taxes just to make ends meet. It’s time we begin restoring the cuts to public schools immediately,” he said.

Hensley predicted that the proposal would have a good chance of passing in the Senate, but its chances seemed iffy at best in the House.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said he didn’t like the new proposal.

He said last year the Legislature gave school districts the flexibility to spend money from various fund balances, and little of that money was spent. He said that means the need for additional funding is not there.

“We’re throwing money at a problem that doesn’t exist,” O’Neal said.

But Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the Kansas-National Education Association, said schools must maintain many of those fund balances to plan for funding shortages at other times of the year. Plus, he said, spending down those balances provides one-time funding, which doesn’t help with ongoing budget expenses.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said increased funding for schools was warranted and there was little support for Brownback’s plan. “It would be a shame for us to leave this session without doing something progressive for school finance,” he said.


Nonsense 6 years, 3 months ago

This may get out of the senate but the brownie controlled house will kill it.

maudeandcecil 6 years, 3 months ago

A question for Scott Rothschild: Does the above reported bi-partisan plan address the current weighted funding formula?

volunteer 6 years, 3 months ago

A school superintendent attending a briefing at the Capitol Plaza Hotel earlier in the week told me the governor wants to increase state aid to schools only if tenure for teachers is abolished.

Wonder if K-NEA is going to get energized to help those eight moderate senators that are allegedly targeted for defeat?

wastewatcher 6 years, 3 months ago

It is amazing that all three of these ULTRA LIBERAL SENATORS are on the payroll of public schools... Hensley was whining about conflicts of interest on a tax bill and here he and the other two are the epitomy of " government suckers on the pubic". It is high time these suckers represent the citizens and not themselves.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

This bill does represent the citizens and most certainly my tax dollars thank you very much. Sam Brownback and his fiscal wreckanomics team was public school to fail so they can authorize OUR tax dollars into the private school industry which is totally unlawful I would think.

Yes I want my tax dollars funding public education and I would like to see personal property tax dollars freed up in order to improve wages for our teaching staff. Education is a worthwhile investment absolutely.

jafs 6 years, 3 months ago

Oh those "ultra liberal" Republicans!

wastewatcher 6 years, 3 months ago

WOW!!! Since all three of the cosponsors receive dollars from the public schools, you would expect that they would want more for the chools so they can get more themselves. Talk about a conflict of interest and selfserving legislators, these three are the champs.

Dave Trabert 6 years, 3 months ago

I understand that districts WANT more money but there is strong evidence that shows they don't NEED more money. Over the last 6 years, districts have used over $400 million of state and local tax dollars to increase cash reserves. Part of their rationale is that they saved money in anticipation of funding changes, but that alone indicates that that money was not needed to provide current educational services. A lot of the unused money is in targeted funds (special education, at risk, etc.); surely districts would have used that money if they felt it was needed.

SB 111 authorizes districts to transfer up to $154 million to offset change in BSAPP over the last two years, but so far districts are only using $24 million of that authority. Details by district are at Every dollar unnecessarily spent on one service is a dollar either not available for some other service or is unnecessarily taken from taxpayers. Districts have been paid on time this entire year and that is expected to continue. Districts already have the $100 million these three Senators want to give to their employers; actually, they have more than 8 times that amount in carryover cash reserves in their operating funds (not counting capital and debt service funds). They could draw down $100 million from their reserves and still have over $750 million left over.

Jimo 6 years, 3 months ago

"Part of their rationale is that they saved money in anticipation of funding changes, but that alone indicates that that money was not needed to provide current educational services."

No, "that alone indicates" that the educational services were not provided and heavily indicates that the cumulative educational process will be permanently diminished leaving the taxpayers with the burden of a less educated citizenry.

But the wealthy patrons that have bought and paid for you to come on this site and push their propaganda consider a less educated citizenry as a feature not a bug of this process.

(Frankly, you're being overpaid but hey, when they've got billions to spend, your paycheck is a rounding error.)

texburgh 6 years, 3 months ago

Dave Trabert is the Koch brothers' mouthpiece in Topeka. Whatever he says is what will benefit his masters - Charles and David Koch. If Trabert supports it, it is certain to be bad news for the regular tax-paying working stiffs trying to get by and hoping for a good education for their children.

usnsnp 6 years, 3 months ago

If our legislators had to recluse themselves every time one of the had a conflict of intrest there would be no one to vote on a bill, of course thay may be a good thing. How many of them either take money from agricultural intrests or fanily own farms yet they vote on agriculture bill that will benifit them.

Dave Trabert 6 years, 3 months ago

I don't disagree; a citizen legislature makes it difficult to avoid potential conflicts. But it's still valid to ask why employees of school districts would sponsor legislation to give their employers $100 million when their employers won't spend hundreds of millions they have already been given by state and local taxpayers.

texburgh 6 years, 3 months ago

And yet Trabert, when speaking for his masters at Koch Industries, has no problem with legislators who work for businesses seeking tax breaks voting on business tax breaks even when they lie about job creation if only they had a tax break. When Trabert speaks, the rest of us are sure to be hurt.

Dave Trabert 6 years, 3 months ago

Not at all true. First, we oppose all forms of corporate welfare. We oppose elements of tax plans that give most people a reduction but raise taxes on low income earners. Tax reform is certainly needed but it must be done in a way that benefits all taxpayers.

And we do not represent Koch Industries or anyone else. We are a completely independent organizaton.

kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

You don't represent the Kochs, and yet you coincidentally live in the same city, take a lot of money from them, and say all the things they like to hear. "Independent organization." Uh huh.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

"But it's still valid to ask why employees of school districts would sponsor legislation to give their employers $100 million when their employers won't spend hundreds of millions they have already been given by state and local taxpayers."

Perhaps it is because they always need to think of rainy days with people like Gov Sam Brownback and his wreckanomic thinkers who bring their private agendas to the forefront... who want to shut down public schools.

Then in wreckanomic fashion turn OUR public education tax dollars over to private industry which is a lot like facism. And a lot like ALEC thinking which is also supportive of facism.

Kansas did not elect Gov Sam Brownback so he could promote his private agendas. Gov Sam Brownback is not only confused he is also misrepresenting many in the republican party and in general Kansas taxpayers.

Then again Gov Sam Brownback lied to Kansas running as a republican for he is close to libertarian with strong facist tendencies.

tomatogrower 6 years, 3 months ago

Bipartisan is a dirty word to Brownback. Besides if you spend the revenue increases for education, how can he make a case to get rid of the income tax? You know, like all those other thriving no income tax states with the high unemployment rates. Maybe they can't read. Maybe they think these states have high employment rates.

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