House hearings set on transportation weighting bills

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee has scheduled a hearing for Thur. Mar. 8, on two bills concerning school districts transportation aid, follow Legislative Post Audit study released in December. 

HB 2697 would amend the transportation weighting formula in the school finance law by increasing the cost ratio for allocating transportation costs for students who live more than 2.5 miles from school from 2.8 times that of other students to 5.0 times. The change was suggested by the audit, which said the current cost ratio appears to understate the cost of transporting students who live more than 2.5 miles from school. It is expected to increase state transportation aid by $4 million next year, which would require an addition to the current two-year budget. 

HB 2561 would also amend the transportation weighting in the school finance law. Specifically, the bill would adjust the “curve of best fit” in the formula for high-density enrollment school districts to correspond with the Kansas State Department of Education’s current practice of calculating state aid for the transportation weighting. 

The LPA study found KSDE has adjusted the “curve of best fit” to provide for minimum payments that are not specifically authorized in state law. KSDE officials say that the practice was initiated at the request of previous legislative leaders and has been used for decades. The audit recommended that the practice be allowed for this year, but not continue next year unless amended into the law by the Legislature. KSDE says it agrees with the recommendation. 

In the current year, 25 large districts are receiving such payments, for a total about $9.7 million. Over the past five years, payments have totaled about $45 million. Because the current two-budget was passed assuming the minimum payments would be made, passage of the bill would not increase state cost. Failure to pass the bill would reduce state costs by cutting transportation aid to large, densely populated districts. 

Those districts would either have to reduce transportation services to students under 2.5 miles, raise offsetting revenue such as fees, or shift more money from other parts of the budget to cover the loss in aid. 

In addition to the loss in aid if the Legislature does not act, some Legislative leaders have suggested those funds should be repaid by districts because they were not specifically authorized in state law. 

KASB has prepared this analysis of the transportation funding controversy. 

KASB also prepared this report on the how the Kansas Legislature has underfunded other aspects of the school finance law since 2009. 

To testify on these bills, contact Dana Rooney, Committee Assistant, at 785-296-7460 to sign up and receive conferee rules and a Cover Sheet for testimony. Fifty copies of printed testimony and a PDF are required 24 hours before the presentation, delivered to room 274-W. 

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