House school finance plan sharply reduced

A school finance bill was finally sent to the House floor for debate later this week, but only after the total funding increase for school districts was reduced by more than half.

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee voted to report HB 2410 without recommendation, meaning the committee did not agree to give it a favorable endorsement.

As amended, the committee approved a $4,006 base or foundation amount per pupil next year, which with other changes will increase school funding by an estimated $185 million. The following year, the base will be adjusted to add an additional $100 million in school funding. After that, the base would be automatically indexed to changes in the Midwest Consumer Price Index.

That two-year total of $285 million in general aid, special education aid and local equalization aid was far short of the committee’s original plan, put together during the regular session, to add $150 million a year for five years, for a total exceeding $750 million.

Those numbers do not include additional funding for Kansas Public Employees Retirement System contributions or additional state aid for bond and interest and capital outlay.

The new total is far short of the amount KASB suggested to the committee was needed to advance Kansas toward meeting the Rose capacities for student learning outlined by the Kansas Supreme Court. KASB said the $750 million plan was at the “low end” of what evidence indicates is required to provide constitutionally suitable funding.

But some members of the committee and Legislative school finance council Jeff King, former vice president of the Senate, said other measures would provide the court with evidence that the plan was “reasonably calculated” to help students achieve the Rose capacities. They also point out that the plan boosts funding targeted at low performing students, which was the primary concern identified by the Supreme Court.

The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday for an update on the House plan.

For the most part, HB 2410 as advanced by the House committee returns to most of the main features of the school finance formula used before the block grant system was adopted for the past two years, and follows many – but not all – of the school finance recommendations adopted by KASB.

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