President’s Perspective: Thanks to those who supported SB 16

by C. Patrick Woods
KASB President
Topeka USD 501

Greetings fellow board members.  I write you today having witnessed the signing into law of SB 16, the 2019 School Finance package.  The bill commits an additional $90 million per year for Kansas schools over the next five years to account for inflation, which was not provided for in the five-year school finance package that was passed in the previous legislative session.

When I wrote in January, I argued it was entirely possible for the state to promptly resolve the school finance question because of actions the Legislature had taken the previous year to repeal former Governor Brownback’s failed tax experiment.  After all, in November the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group had revised its projections upward for the coming fiscal year by 4.4 percent, and the state’s projected ending balance stood at over $900 million, or nearly 13 percent, well above the statutorily required ending balance for the State General Fund.  In the minds of most Kansans, this seemed like a ready-made, simple and easy solution.  All that was required from policy makers, the Legislature and the Governor, was the political maturity and common sense to embrace the solution.

Governor Laura Kelly stepped up to meet the challenge by presenting a budget with the funds dedicated to finance the additional $90 million recommended by the Kansas State Board of Education for inflation and urged the Legislature to act.  Though it took most of the regular legislative session to do so, the Legislature rose above the haze of unfair criticisms against public schools and general intransigence by a minority of legislators to pass a school finance bill that largely kept with the appropriations recommendation put forward by the State Board to account for inflation in adequately financing public education.  More importantly, this majority avoided getting distracted by most of the “policy” issues offered as alternatives to adequate funding, such as expansion of private school vouchers, expensive and duplicative reporting requirements, and limits on how local boards of education can spend funds to meet their local needs.

I want to dedicate this space to thanking Governor Kelly and the Legislature for acting to resolve the school finance issue.  While I know that this bill is far from perfect – it cannot make up for lost years of unconstitutionally inadequate funding – I view it as a step toward a larger commitment of fulfilling the constitutional obligation for adequate school funding.  I want to thank those (the Governor, 31 Senators, and 76 House members) who voted for SB 16.

To Governor Laura Kelly, we thank you for your leadership in making adequate funding a priority in your budget, fighting for and signing, SB 16.

To the following legislators, we express our gratitude for supporting SB 16:

Kansas Senate: Molly Baumgardner, Ed Berger, Rick Billinger, Barbara Bollier, Elaine Bowers, Kevin Braun, Jim Denning, John Doll, Bud Estes, Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Marci Francisco, Bruce Givens, Dan Goddard, David Haley, Randall Hardy, Tom Hawk, Anthony Hensley, Tom Holland, Dan Kerschen, Jeff Longbine, Julia Lynn, Carolyn McGinn, Vic Miller, Rob Olson, Mike Petersen, Pat Pettey, John Skubal, Dinah Sykes, Mary Jo Taylor, Susan Wagle and Mary Ware.

Kansas House of Representatives: John Alcala, Mike Amyx, Dave Baker, Barbara Ballard, David Benson, Elizabeth Bishop, Tom Burroughs, Sidney Carlin, Suzi Carlson, John Carmichael, Lonnie Clark, Stephanie Clayton, Susan Concannon, Tom Cox, Chris Croft, Pam Curtis, Diana Dierks, Brenda Dietrich, Ronald Ellis, John Eplee, Gail Finney, Stan Frownfelter, Jim Gartner, Henry Helgerson, Brodrick Henderson, Larry Hibbard, Boog Highberger, Don Hineman, Tim Hodge, Nick Hoheisel, Cindy Holscher, Eileen Horn, Ron Howard, Russ Jennings, Jim Karleskint, Jim Kelly, Jan Kessinger, Annie Kuether, Martin Long, Nancy Lusk, Megan Lynn, Leonard Mastroni, J.C. Moore, Monica Murnan, Cindy Neighbor, K.C. Ohaebosim, Boyd Orr, Jarod Ousley, Bill Pannbacker, Brett Parker, Fred Patton, Tom Phillips, Jeff Pittman, Jason Probst, Richard Proehl, Ken Rahjes, Brad Ralph, John Resman, Susan Ruiz, Mark Samsel, Tom Sawyer, Mark Schreiber, Adam Smith, Jerry Stogsdill, Ponca-We Victors, Jim Ward, Freda Warfield, Kellie Warren, Troy Waymaster, Virgil Weigel, John Wheeler, Brandon Whipple, Valdenia Winn, Kathy Wolfe Moore, Brandon Woodard and Rui Xu.

We acknowledge this bill is not perfect, and it won’t be the last word in maintaining adequacy or equity in school finance.  History suggests we will still have to fight to ensure education remains atop the list of priorities for state funding.  We also understand the details of this bill must still pass the test of constitutionality with the Kansas Supreme Court. That said, this bill demonstrates a commitment to the traditional Kansas value of excellence in public education.  For that, we should express our gratitude.

By making the education of our children a priority, the Governor and the Legislature further solidify the state’s economic position – not just now, but well into the future.

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