Archive for Friday, March 21, 2014

House Republicans offer school finance fix

March 21, 2014


— Republicans in the Kansas House introduced an education bill Thursday that would fully restore funding for poor districts.

But the bill also includes several policy changes favored by conservatives. Those include changes in teacher licensing requirements; opening more avenues for establishing charter school programs; doubling the number of districts that can exempt themselves from state regulations under the “public innovative districts” program; and setting up a new “performance and efficiency commission” to study ways of reducing education costs.

Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said the panel would begin discussing that bill Monday.

Meanwhile, the Senate Ways and Means Committee is expected to begin discussing its own bill Friday. And while details of that bill were not yet available late Thursday, committee chairman Ty Masterson, R-Andover, has said it will also link increased funding to new policy initiatives.

The two committees had planned to begin debating proposals Thursday, but leaders pushed back the timetable in order to finish drafting their initial bills.

The House bill introduced Thursday includes language from other education bills that had been introduced previously this session. They are packaged together with an appropriations bill that adds an additional $104 million in “equalization aid” to subsidize the local option budgets of lower-wealth school districts.

It also strikes language in an existing statute that prevents the state from transferring general fund money into another fund to equalize local districts’ capital outlay levies — money they raise to pay for new computers and equipment, building maintenance and repair and other big-ticket items. That would free up about $25 million in state aid to flow to districts that qualify for that aid.

If that funding is enacted, the Lawrence school district would receive about $1 million in additional state aid for its LOB, but that would not give the district any additional spending authority. Instead, it would replace money currently being raised through local property taxes, allowing the district to lower its tax levy by about $1 million, or $23 per year in tax for the owner of a $100,000 house.

The source of at least part of that money would come from changes the bill would make in funding for at-risk pupils and transportation aid.

The Lawrence district does not qualify for capital outlay equalization aid.

The other policy measures bundled into the House bill include:

• Doubling, from 29 to 58, the number of school districts that can become exempt from most state regulations if they offer a plan showing how doing so will help them improve student performance.

• Establishing a nine-member “K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission” whose job would be to “study and analyze current K-12 school district spending and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding opportunities to make more efficient use of taxpayer money.”

• Loosening requirements for people to obtain teaching licenses in certain academic fields and for people who already hold valid teaching licenses from other states.

• Expanding charter schools by authorizing cities, counties and higher education institutions to establish charter schools. Currently, only local school districts can establish them, with approval from the Kansas State Board of Education.

• And establishing a corporate scholarship tax credit program that would offer tax credits to businesses that contribute to scholarships for lower-income students to attend private or parochial schools.


William Weissbeck 1 year, 8 months ago

Two things jump out at me. Repeal of the renewable energy standards and the state endangered species act by the legislature, lead me to conclude that they will next repeal the 70's. Clearly whatever we learned and experienced back then is no longer relevant. But let me see if I get the last item in the Senate bill right. The state will reduce the taxes on corporations that use that money to fund private schools. After all "scholarships" are simply just a means of funding the private school indirectly. So then we either have less for public schools, or the rest of us have to pay more?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

The ALEC Private Government loves special interest campaign dollars to run their misinformation and character assassination campaigns. While we beat up on the corrupt Koch brothers the corrupt Wal-Mart family is in this mess as well and deep deep in this mess. These two families are terrorizing several states as we speak.

Thinking of what Wal-Mart money is doing to democracy and public schools how many can sincerely afford to shop Wal-Mart?

Meanwhile. Parents United for Public Schools

James Howlette 1 year, 8 months ago

In other words, this legislation was written entirely by the Kochs.

James Howlette 1 year, 8 months ago

And by that, I mean KPI and ALEC, both of whom rely on Koch funding.

James Howlette 1 year, 8 months ago

Things that this seems to do:

Increase public funding for private and parochial schools via "scholarship."

The last time they had a scholarship bill, it was ALEC model legislation, and the amount of the "scholarship" wouldn't cover tuition at most schools. The funds not used by at-risk/low income students could be used by anyone. In other words, it was a means to give middle and upper class parents a tuition discount for the private/parochial school they were already attending.

Parents should also know that parochial and private schools do not have to honor IEPs. Nor do they have to admit everyone.

Increasing charters - yes, this has been an ALEC/KPI goal for a while. If you increase the number of institutions that can grant the charter, it's easier for bad charters to get approved, and it's easier to figure out ways to make money off of them. School district doesn't like your charter idea? Go pitch it to the other multiple entities that will now be approving them. Besides, parents largely pick their charter options for social, not academic reasons.

Exempting state regulations - come on. If the regulations are bad, just exempt everyone and admit which regulations you want thrown out (mainly those involving teacher collective bargaining) instead of taking the coward's way out. The last time you tried this, very few schools applied, anyway.

“K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission” - let's just call it the "KPI board." We've already seen a taste of this with their last "report." The "efficiency" commission will likely be looking at averages and just demanding people do more with less without asking if there's a good reason why one school spends more on X category than another.

Making it easier to hire unqualified teachers. Let's call it what it is, shall we? The "anyone can teach" clause.

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