Kansas Bills We Are Watching
Bills we are watching:
The regular session of the legislature ended last week, however the budget that was passed includes no money for public education. The legislature will return on May 3 to continue this budget work and consider veto overrides. During this time we still have work to do and KASB has set some priorities:
*Fund the Gannon school finance plan
From 2009 to 2017, Kansas school operating budgets were cut more $500 million after adjusting for inflation. During that time, over 2,000 school jobs were lost, programs were eliminated, and school salaries fell behind inflation, worsening the teacher shortage districts already faced. Kansas per pupil funding dropped compared to the national and regional averages.
Also, Kansas scores on state and national tests declined after a decade of growth, putting Kansas students at an educational disadvantage, and threatening the state long-term rise in educational attainment.
In response to the Gannon school finance case, the Kansas Legislature and Kansas Supreme Court agreed to a six-year plan designed to restore funding to 2009 inflation-adjusted levels, from 2017-18 to 2022-23. It has already allowed districts to restore positions, expand programs for the most at-risk students and help school salaries catch up with inflation, other states and comparable professions.
The Legislature still needs to approve the final two years of the plan for 2022 and 2023.
*Use federal aid to help students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kansas schools are expected to receive a total of over $1.3 billion in federal aid to spend over the next three to four years. It is an unprecedented amount of funding. It is also an unprecedented health and educational crisis.
Those funds are to be used for the additional costs of keeping schools safe to operate during the pandemic and then help students recover from lost learning time and the social and emotional effects of the past year. It estimated that over $200 million will be required for school health and safety costs. This funding could also provide $600 million for summer programs over the next four years and over $500 million for extra time and student support during the school year.
Note that these funds can only be used for COVID-related costs and are one-time funds that cannot support on-going costs. The federal formula also means districts receive very different amounts.
*Preserve funding for public schools that serve all students.
The Legislature has been considering proposals to expand public funding for students to attend private schools by expanding students eligible for an existing scholarship program supported by tax credits and by creating a new program that would transfer base state aid for public school students into education accounts for private school tuition and other expenses. Private schools can be selective in the students they serve with public funding, public schools must serve students these schools will not, or cannot, educate. This represents an unequal system that could hurt our schools and children.
*Preserve local decisions in education, subject to local voters.
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