We have made it to adjournment of the regular session. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the Kansas House of Representatives. The House approved 71 House bills and 63 Senate bills so far. The veto session will begin April 27.
The biggest news of the last week was school finance. The House passed HB 2655, which is a response to the latest equity ruling in the Gannon school finance case. The bill gives school boards new flexibility using a formula that has already been found to pass the constitutional equity standard. Further flexibility on top of that will allow districts to raise extra money locally, keep property tax collections at the current rate, or give property tax relief to their district.
Under the plan as passed, schools will continue to receive predictable and flexible funding at record high levels as the block grant was intended to provide. No schools lose money under the plan, and approximately 24 districts that lost money because of plunging oil & gas valuations will see additional funding.
This plan is designed to keep the Supreme Court from closing Kansas schools while the new system for financing education is developed. I do not believe anyone is truly committed to disrupting education.
Here is a quick look at how this school finance bill would work:
1. Under the previous school finance formula that the block grant replaced, capital outlay and the local option budget (aka LOB or supplemental general state aid) used two separate, different calculations to distribute money equitably to schools.
2. SB 59 equalizes school dollars by applying the capital outlay calculation contained in the old formula to both LOB and Capital Outlay funding.
3. Using the Capital Outlay (CO) funding calculation, both CO and LOB money is distributed in a method that has already been determined by the court to satisfy equity among districts.
4. Any money remaining after LOB has been equalized then goes to equalize capital outlay.
5. After capital outlay has been fully equalized (using the capital outlay calculation) there is still more money left over.
6. The leftover money (over $61 million) is the “hold harmless” funding, and is given back to school districts with no strings attached.
7. The hold harmless money is completely free and flexible for school districts to put into the classroom or use however they choose.
8. The bill gives distribution authority of $15 million in extraordinary needs money to the Kansas Board of Education, which will work better with school districts and their budget schedules.
9. The bill is designed to be severable so schools will not be shut down. If the court strikes down a certain portion of the law, the rest will remain in effect.
This is all contingent on the Kansas Supreme Court approving this school finance plan and we move forward developing a new school finance formula during the next legislative session in January.
Ken Rahjes, R-Agra, represents the 110th District in the Kansas House. email@example.com