KASB provides details on wide-ranging school finance bill

A proposed school finance system would reduce funding, including the elimination of state spending for extracurricular activities, and provide tax funds to parents who want to send their children to private schools or home schools.

House Bill 2741 was put together by the chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees — Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, and Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego — and would create a new finance formula to replace the block grants as of July 1, 2017.

A detailed summary of the legislation by KASB can be accessed here. In addition, KASB has archived a Webinar on the bill that can be viewed here.

The measure would reduce base school funding from 2014-15 levels by $373 million, but then temporarily make up some of that funding.

The bill would include reductions of state aid based on enrollment by 9 percent; transportation funding by 15 percent; low income aid by 17 percent and bilingual state aid by 51 percent. Then for two years, districts would receive additional aid to make up some of the difference from 2014-15 levels minus projected savings from so-called efficiencies. These would include prohibiting state funding of food services and extracurricular activities, putting school employees in the state health plan and reducing school district cash balances.

On taxes, districts could increase property taxes without limit for up to five years with voter approval for purposes other than instruction. Districts would also have to levy a 35 statewide mill property tax compared with the current 20 mills.

In addition, the bill would create the Kansas Education Freedom Act in which state funds equal to 70 percent of general state aid for each student, would go toward  that student’s parents and be used to pay for educational costs at private or home schools.

The measure would also create the USD Efficiency Incentive Program in which school district employees could submit efficiency ideas for districts and if approved by the State Board of Education could receive up to 10 percent of the savings.

The bill could make court challenges to school finance laws more difficult. Only locally raised funds could be used to finance litigation, an appeal from the trial court level would have to go to the Kansas Court of Appeals, instead of directly to the Kansas Supreme Court, and a three-judge panel for school finance trials would be determined by lottery.

Starting in 2018-19, the Kansas State Board of Education would disburse success grants based on student performance after graduation, according to the bill but no amount of funding is set. In addition, new formulas would be established for capital outlay state aid and capital improvement aid.

Legislators return for the wrap up session on April 27 but no indication has been given on whether there will be hearings on this bill.

April 4, 2016