Brownback signs into law temporary school finance formula; many other education-related bills still alive

Gov. Sam Brownback has signed into law Senate Bill 7, which repeals the current school finance formula and replaces it with a so-called block grant system for two years.

That was one of many actions taken Wednesday in the Statehouse as legislators near next week’s end of the regular session, take a break and then return in late April.

Other bills still alive and requiring the attention of school advocates include legislation to move school board elections to the fall, changes to working after retirement, and regulations on the emergency restraint of students. Here is a link to the status of bills being followed by KASB.

Although SB 7 contains proposed levels of funding for schools, the bill has yet to be funded. That task may require tax increases, budget cuts or a combination of the two and those decisions will probably be put off by legislators until May after they receive a new revenue estimate for the current and next fiscal year.

Also on Wednesday, the Kansas Senate approved a proposed budget for state government, excluding K-12 spending, which makes up about one-half of state appropriations.

Brownback signed Senate Bill 7 in a private ceremony with key legislative supporters of the bill.

The controversial measure was rammed through the Legislature in seven business days and was opposed by the overwhelming majority of the education community, including KASB.

Supporters of the bill included frequent critics of public schools - the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Kansas Policy Institute and tea party-aligned Kansans for Liberty.

KASB and other opponents said the block grant failed to provide adequate overall funding and would especially hurt poor districts by removing portions of the current system meant to help equalize funding with rich districts.

But Brownback and his allies said the current school finance system was too complicated, didn't produce adequate student outcomes and pitted school districts against each other for funding.

Whether the bill is implemented may depend on the courts.

A long-running lawsuit filed by several school districts alleges the state has failed to provide a constitutional level of funding.

A three-judge panel in the case issued an order that said the court may block any new school finance plan from taking effect while the lawsuit over the current school funding system continues. The panel has set a May 7 hearing in the case.

School Board Elections

The issue of moving school board elections remains alive. The Senate-approved version would move city and school board elections from the spring of odd-numbered years to the fall of odd-numbered years. A House committee version would move the elections to the fall of even-numbered years, but that measure has not been considered by the full House.

KASB urges education officials to contact their legislators to vote against changing the current system.

Supporters of moving the elections say it will increase turnout in those races, but KASB and others say voters in school board races are well-informed about the issues in the races and moving them would confuse voters. Here is a link to KASB resources on this issue.

KASB also advocates for other proven proposals to increase turnout, such as expansion of mail balloting.

Emergency Safety Intervention

The Senate approved 38-1 a substitute for House Bill 2170 which deals with how school personnel handle students who are posing a threat to themselves or others.

The measure now goes back to the House for possible concurrence.

Here is a side-by-side analysis by KASB of the House and Senate proposals.

Working After Retirement

Changes ahead for working after retirement?

HB 2253, which deals with working after retirement policy and practices, passed out of the House Pensions and Benefits Committee last week and reached the House in bill form on Tuesday. As a result, it never came above the line this week, but it is sure to be worked sometime after the legislature’s return next Monday, March 30. If it were to pass in its current form, the working after retirement landscape will change dramatically from the past six years.