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Kansas superintendents tell lawmakers: Allocate more funding for schools

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TOPEKA — Kansas superintendents made the trek to Topeka during the final week of the school year to tell the Senate education finance committee it needs to put more money in its bill.

“We do not believe that the recommended funding level is sufficient to accomplish college workforce readiness as established by Kansans Can and the desire of the state of Kansas to move forward,” said Patricia All, interim superintendent for Olathe USD 233.

Suzan Patton, superintendent of Pratt USD 382, went right to the numbers.

“I believe that $4,006 as base state foundation aid is not sufficient,” she said.

Then she enumerated costs that have changed in her small school district, which serves approximately 1,200 students.

The newly formulated Senate Bill 251, which addresses school financing, proposes $234.5 million in the first two years of the five-year plan beginning with the 2017-18 school year. The House bill supplied $279 million in funding over the first two years. Both plans would fund the remaining three years with an increase based on the Consumer Price Index, although each used different CPI formulas.

“I’m looking at increased expenditures in the daily operation of the school district, and what I know increases every year and what I need to be able to provide for,” Patton said.

She informed the Senate committee of those expenses, including a $20,000 increase in utilities this year; 5 percent to 7 percent increases in district health insurance, which she said is critical to recruitment; and a 15 percent to 19 percent increase in special-education assessments.

Property insurance, even with competitive bidding each year, goes up $8,000 to $10,000 annually, she said.

Those testifying also pointed out parts of the bill they liked, including funding for all-day kindergarten and increased funding for at-risk students.

The Senate committee heard testimony Thursday afternoon and was expected to continue hearing input on its school finance bill today and Saturday.