school funding

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TOPEKA – Sen. Bud Estes, R-Dodge City, will try to ax a proposed $120 annual charge to water right owners to finance public schools.

“It has nothing to do with utility bills,” Estes said at the Monday afternoon meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance.

Senate Bill 251 contains the Senate’s proposed school finance formula and it would levy a $2.25 monthly charge on residential water, electric and natural gas bills. For non-residential customers, the monthly charge would be $10 on each of the three utilities.

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Kansas superintendents are calling on lawmakers to put more money into a school funding bill.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, several superintendents traveled to Topeka last week to tell the Senate education committee to add more money to Senate Bill 251.

Kansas legislative leaders working on a plan to end the 2017 session have what amounts to a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

They must satisfy members who want to set a school-funding target before voting on the tax increases needed to fund it and those who first want to close a projected $900 million gap between revenue and spending over the next two budget years.

A divided K-12 Education Budget Committee on Monday passed out a school funding plan for Kansas schools that essentially nobody likes.

It adds $279 million over two years: $179 million in the first year and $100 million in the second. After that, school funding would increase based on the inflation rate. The measure was kicked out of committee without recommendation.

When Kansas lawmakers started this legislative session in January, most agreed that comity was back, partnerships would be forged and work would get done.

That was then and this is now.

A trio of challenges remain as the Legislature on Sunday passed the 90-day mark in its session: a budget, a tax plan and a school funding formula.

Educators and some lawmakers weren’t sure which Jeff King they were going to hear from Thursday.

Would the House K-12 Budget Committee hear from the conservative former Senate vice president who pushed through block grants and tried to defund the courts? Or would they hear from a constitutional lawyer with experience litigating school finance cases in Kansas? 

Turns out it was the latter.

“I don’t think there’s anything he said that really threatens where the bill is going,” said Mark Tallman, the top lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

The Kansas Legislature faces a crucial deadline as it starts its wrap-up session this week: It must have a school funding formula in place by June 30 that passes muster with the state Supreme Court or the justices will shut down public schools.

A Republican leader in the Kansas Senate says he’ll propose a fee on all utility bills in the state to help fund education.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, says his plan calls for a $3 monthly fee on residential electric, gas and water bills in the state. Those with all three utilities would pay $9 more a month. For commercial customers, the monthly fee would be $10 per bill.

The whole package would raise $150 million a year, Denning estimates.

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The Texas House Thursday approved a bill designed to inject over a billion dollars into public schools and simplify complicated funding formulas.

As The Texas Tribune reports, State Rep. Dan Huberty succeeded at a difficult task Wednesday: getting the Texas House of Representatives to vote for legislation overhauling the funding system for public education, without a court mandate.

The crowd filling the old Supreme Court room at the Kansas Statehouse expected a bit of a showdown Wednesday when the House K-12 Budget Committee discussed how much money to put into public education.

In the end, that debate lasted about 10 minutes and the committee stood pat on adding $150 million a year for five years for a total package of $750 million.

A Kansas legislative committee worked eight hours Thursday night and didn't come up with a new school funding formula.

But we now know the goal for how much new money will be added to try and satisfy the state Supreme Court which has ruled school funding in Kansas is inadequate.

“Our target was a $150 million over a period of five years, to escalate up slowly to a more constitutionally appropriate number,” says Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Republican from Fairway and a driving force to find more money for public education.

Kansas legislative leaders took a couple of days to try to persuade some members of the House K-12 Budget Committee to accept $75 million more in school funding, according to legislators on both sides of the aisle.

But the hardball tactics apparently failed.

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A school finance proposal that would boost funding by more than $75 million is going to fall short of what the Kansas Supreme Court views as adequate.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the court ruled earlier this month that the state was not providing an adequate education to all Kansas students and gave the Kansas Legislature until June 30 to come up with a new school finance formula.

A proposed school funding bill in Kansas would add $75 million to the public education system but many educators say that’s far less than they expected and may not be enough to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Stephanie Clayton, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, says lawmakers in both parties “believe it will take a significantly larger amount” to satisfy their constituents, educators and the court.

Kansas lawmakers have waited for half the session to get a look at what will probably be the basis for a new school funding formula.

Rep. Larry Campbell, the chairman of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee, released an outline of the measure Tuesday.

It looks a lot like the formula scrapped two years ago for block grants, a funding scheme ruled unconstitutional earlier this month by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Legislature grapples with school finance future

Mar 14, 2017

TOPEKA – The Kansas Supreme Court gave an “F” to the Legislature for fulfilling its Constitutional duty to adequately fund public schools, and some legislators were steamed when they returned to work last week for first time since the March 2 decision.

“There’s nothing that says they’re the supreme authority over us,” said Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita.

Did they make any suggestion whose taxes we should raise? Whitemer asked.

The Supreme Court ruling did not require a specific additional sum or even flatly order more money, although that’s the interpretation.

The president of the Kansas Senate says a new school funding formula needs to focus on the quarter of students who are at-risk and not meeting state standards. And simply adding money to a funding formula won’t solve the problem, she says.

Sen. Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, says the federal Head Start program is a good model on how to help at-risk children.

It is not hyperbole to say the challenges that members of the 2017 Kansas Legislature face are among the most daunting in state history.

As expected, the Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday morning ruled that the state’s school funding formula is inadequate under the Kansas Constitution.

In a unanimous 83-page decision, the court gave the Legislature until June 30 to address the state’s public education financing system.

The decision comes after the court ruled earlier that the school funding formula had failed to meet the equity prong of the Kansas Constitution.

There’s been an awful lot of discussion on what the new school funding formula will look like and whether the Kansas Legislature will still make cuts to public schools mid-year.

Nothing has been decided which has educators in the state both a little optimistic and a little scared.

On a recent morning Allison Theno was combining math and penguins to teach her 18  kindergartners at Basehor Elementary to subtract.

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When it comes to per-pupil spending, Oklahoma ranks 47th out of the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The state spends less than $9,000 per student per year. That puts Oklahoma well below the national average of nearly $12,400. Oklahoma also spends less than its neighboring states on students, reports News 9.

Chris Neal / Topeka Capital-Journal

The Kansas school funding saga continues. In February, the state Supreme Court ruled that funding to poor school districts be increased by June 30th. If legislators failed to fix the funding, said the court, the state public school system would be shut down. On Friday, the court reviewed lawmakers’ latest funding plan and still determined it to be unconstitutional. The court gave lawmakers one more chance, reaffirming the June 30 deadline for the state to fix the problem.