A great deal of time was spent listening, debating and reviewing the components of House Substitute for Senate Bill 7, Creating the Classroom Learning Assuring Student Success Act (CLASS) also known as the block-grant funding bill for K-12 education.
The most critical aspect of this bill is K-12 education would be financed by the state to the school districts by a block grant for the same funding amount as the 2014-15 school year instead of by the current school finance formula that has been the mechanism for education finance since 1992. A breakdown of those amounts would be determined by the amount of dollars each district received in 2014-15 for general state aid, capital outlay state aid, virtual school state aid, the amount of tax proceeds collected by the school district for ancillary school facilities tax levy, cost-of-living tax levy, declining enrollment tax levy, and the amount of KPERS employer obligations. In the block-grant idea, the following components would be removed when determining the funding: the ancillary school facilities weighting, the cost-of-living weighting and the declining enrollment weighting.
There are additional important provisions to the bill. One of those other provisions would be the creation of an extraordinary need fund. This fund would start with a balance of $4 million in the school year of 2014-15, then for school years 2015-16 and 2016-17, 4 percent would be added from the state general fund. The purpose of this fund is to help school districts with any unforeseen hardships during the time of the block grants. Other provisions are local school districts could authorize special local tax levies that meet current laws, and they could adopt a local option budget and levy an amount that does not exceed the limit already set in place by statute, which would occur through the authorization of a local vote.
While we worked the bill in Appropriations Committee, many amendments were added to the initial piece of legislation. A sunset date amendment I proposed passed. A specific sunset date on the legislation was needed to force the Legislature to create a new school finance formula. That date, as reflected in the amendment, is June 30, 2017.
On Thursday, this significant piece of legislation was debated and amended by the entire House of Representatives. There were many in the House that opposed the change of funding K-12 education in Kansas, and there were those who applauded the notion of retiring the existing school finance formula and go to the block-grant funding so a new formula could be created. Although I agree there might need to be changes to the existing formula, there is uncertainty of not knowing what the formula created would be and how that would impact our rural schools. In order to retire or change the existing formula, we need more time to address the concerns of how a new formula would affect our schools in Kansas. The bill did pass out of the House 64-57 on Friday morning and now goes to the Kansas Senate.
* The Kansas Department of Transportation announced permits will be issued to landowners wanting to harvest hay on Kansas highway right-of-ways.
Those with land adjacent to the right-of-way will be given permit priority from Jan. 1 until March 31. After March 31, permits to harvest will be issued in the order in which they are received. The permits will expire Sept. 30.
Hay harvesting on right-of-ways along state and federal highways without a permit is illegal and is trespassing, according to KDOT.
Permits can be canceled at any time by either party, and all operations shall be in accord with requirements and guidelines set by KDOT. Any person, firm or corporation wanting to mow or bale hay needs to submit a permit application to the KDOT office in his area. No hay harvesting will take place along interstates, and access to any right of way shall be determined by KDOT.
For additional information, contact the local KDOT office or by calling the KDOT Bureau of Maintenance in Topeka at (785) 296-3576.
Rep. Troy L. Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, represents the 109th District in the Kansas House.