Democratic legislative leaders say school finance must be at least $4,500 BSAPP by 2020

Democratic legislative leaders say K-12 finance proposals put forward by Republicans so far fall short of what will be needed to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to provide adequate funding to schools.

The current level of base state aid under the block grant system, which the court has declared unconstitutional, is $3,852 per pupil. Sub for House Bill 2410, which was advanced by a committee, would increase that to $4,006 in the fiscal year that starts July 1 and a measure discussed in a Senate committee would increase base state aid to $4,080 per pupil.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said in a letter to Republican leaders, “We believe that any school finance plan which falls short of providing a BSAPP (base state aid per pupil) by fiscal year 2020 of at least $4,500 per student, appropriately weighted, and indexed, will not be `reasonably calculated to address the constitutional violations’ of the inadequacy requirement.”

The Democratic leaders added, “We would also note that $4,500 per student is only $100 more than the $4,400 `high water mark’ we achieved under the previous formula in the 2008-09 school year, which would equal a $12.50 increase each year over the last eight years.” Base state aid cuts were made to schools after the state slid into the Great Recession.

In the three-page letter, Hensley and Ward buttress their arguments by citing legislative studies, Kansas State Board of Education calculations and lower court decisions leading to the Supreme Court ruling that gave legislators until June 30 to fix the system.

“Based on the trial panel’s findings and discussion, the State Board of Education has recommended an increase in the BSAPP from $3,852 to $4,604 in fiscal year 2018 and from $4,604 to $5,090 in fiscal year 2019. This would total approximately $825 million over two years,” Hensley and Ward said.

The two Democratic leaders also said any attempt to satisfy the Supreme Court’s order must provide equitable and adequate funding and fix the budget deficit, which by some accounts is at $900 million, so that K-12 education has sustainable funding. Their letter was addressed to Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, and copied to Jeff King, a former state senator who has been hired to serve as legislative counsel in the school finance litigation.

Democrats are vastly outnumbered in the Legislature — 31-9 in the Senate and 85-40 in the House — but sometimes moderate Republicans and Democrats have formed coalitions on certain issues.

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