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Katt hoped for ‘more meat’ from ruling

3/7/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Hays USD 489 Superintendent Dean Katt was disappointed with the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision on school finance.

He was hoping it would have “more meat to it.”

For instance, if it had included an increase in the base state aid per pupil, “We would see more windfall,” Katt said.

“While it seems like a step in the right direction, it also seems like the process is being prolonged,” Kim Schneweis, Hays-KNEA president wrote in an email. “The students, teachers and parents have been dealing with the shortchanging of the schools for long enough. The lawmakers had a chance to improve school funding, but chose to implement tax cuts instead.”

However, the ruling could mean additional state aid for some districts’ capital outlay and local option budgets.

Katt estimates USD 489 could get $160,000 more in state aid for its LOB.

It won’t be new or additional money, but it could lower a taxpayer’s LOB mill levy by maybe half a mill, he said.

The ruling on capital outlay budgets won’t help USD 489.

“We don’t get state aid,” Katt said.

USD 489 Board of Education President Greg Schwartz said the ruling “mandates the Legislature does some things,” but declined further comment until he has a chance to read the ruling.

Larry Lysell, Palco USD 269 superintendent, said on the surface it’s “not as much of a boon” to his district as he might have wanted.

Nevertheless, “it’s a great start and a good decision.”

Palco is one of approximately 50 school districts that belong to Schools for Fair Funding, which supported the school funding lawsuits.

SFFF was organized in 1989, and USD 489 was a charter member. The board of education voted in July not to renew its membership.

Lysell said Palco’s assessed valuation has increased, so its state aid from the capital outlay and LOB isn’t significant.

The next step is for the Legislature to fund the mandates, Lysell said.

“Kansas schools have endured some of the biggest funding cuts in the nation, ranking fourth in the nation for biggest cuts to school funding,” Schneweis said. “While the courts pass this back and forth, the kids keep growing. And they can’t go back and ‘redo’ first grade or high school once the lawmakers decide to fund the schools adequately. The time to fund education properly is now.”