School funding, tax cuts may be on collision course

Worlds are colliding in the Kansas Legislature.

The Kansas Senate last week approved a school finance bill that could be difficult to sustain given tax cuts Republicans have also approved.

But Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, may be the one who prevents the collisions. She supports the school finance bill, SB 142, and has criticized SB 22 and will likely veto it.

SB 22 reduces state revenue in the year that starts July 1 by approximately $200 million. It would continue reducing revenue by $140 million the next fiscal year and $145 million the year after that. Most of the benefits of the tax cuts would go to multinational corporations. The Senate approved a House-amended version, which also includes a cut in the state sales tax on food from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent and levies sales tax on some internet purchases.

Kelly has said the cuts would rob revenue needed for education and numerous other functions of state government that have been struggling from lack of funding. She said the state budget is still recovering from the shocks of the Gov. Sam Brownback tax cuts, which were mostly repealed in 2017.

If she vetoed the measure, Republican leadership would have to muster two-thirds majorities to override the veto, which would take 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate. The House initially voted 76-43 and the Senate 26-14 and then later 24-16 with the added House amendments.

KASB opposes SB 22. “Our concern is that SB 22 — and any other proposal to reduce state revenues without offsetting revenue increases — is that will make it much harder to provide constitutionally suitable funding for K-12 education, as well as other priority programs,” KASB Associate Director for Advocacy Mark Tallman testified.

On school finance, SB 142 provides the $90 million in additional K-12 funds to address the inflation adjustment cited by the Kansas Supreme Court. The measure, approved on a bipartisan 32-8 vote and supported by KASB, now goes to the House where Republicans have teed up an extremely different approach.

HB 2395 cuts off the $90 million inflation adjustment after two years and includes numerous policy provisions opposed by KASB and other education groups.

The bill would:

— Repeal scheduled base increases in 2022 and 2023 passed as part of last session’s Gannon response and would repeal future CPI adjustments in base and artificial Local Option Budget base;

— Repeal the 92 percent of excess cost target for special education aid;

— Limit bilingual participation for weighting to four years;

— Limit district cash balances to 15 percent of operating expenditures, based on average of monthly reporting, excluding capital outlay and bond funds only. Amounts in excess of 15 percent would have to be spent over next budget year;

— Create the Hope Scholarship program to transfer base state aid amounts to private school scholarships for student determined to be victims of bullying after investigation (appeal to school board); private schools not required to accept such students, but another public school district must accept such students as transfers; home school must provide student with report on how district is addressing the issue if they do not transfer to a private school or another school district;

— Prohibit the school districts from specifying any proprietary product, material or installation method for roofing bids; require districts in metropolitan areas of at least 50,000 people to receive at least three bids if specifying particular roofing product, material or installation method; allow school district to award contract to higher bidder if the board determines that quality, suitability and usability of the product, material or installation method is superior.

Numerous other education related bills are still being worked on this week in the Legislature, including SB 7, which would allow school boards to elect officers in January instead of July; SB 128, requiring schools conduct nine safety drills per year and HB 2346, updating vision screenings in schools.

Some important legislative deadlines are coming up. Friday is the last day for non-exempt committees to meet and consider bills and April 5 is first adjournment.

Please follow KASB on social media, the website, and in the KASB NewsBriefs to stay up-to-date on fast-moving developments. Here are links to KASB Live video and podcast reviewing last week and previewing this week.

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