Rich district, poor district on opposite sides of Brownback school finance plan

? Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to remove state limits on local property tax increases for schools got a thumbs-up Monday from a wealthy school district, but poorer districts said the proposal wouldn’t be fair to their students.

Representatives of the Wichita, Kansas City, Kan., and Salina districts criticized Brownback’s plan, which is the focus of three days of hearings before the Senate Education Committee.

Cynthia Lane, superintendent of the Kansas City, Kan., school district, said the state Constitution states funding education is a state responsibility. She said attempts to push that responsibility to the local level “cannot be allowed to succeed.”

Lane also spoke in favor of the current finance formula, which provides additional dollars for teaching children who have additional challenges, such as those who are living in poverty or are learning to speak English.

Wichita school officials also opposed Brownback’s plan, noting the unlimited taxing authority for local districts.

William Hall, superintendent of the Salina school district, said Brownback’s plan “will not provide for adequate funding to meet the needs of the Salina students now, or even more importantly, in the future.”

He said the plan fails to connect school funding to the actual cost of educating students and transfers the responsibility for funding public education from the state to the local level

But Tom Trigg, superintendent of the Blue Valley district in Johnson County, said he supported Brownback’s proposal to allow local districts to raise property taxes for schools. Trigg noted this was “a position that Blue Valley has advocated for many years.”

Brownback has said his plan will give local officials more authority in raising and spending education dollars.