School leaders needed in Topeka on Wednesday for finance and board meeting hearings; communication with legislators

School leaders wanting a direct voice to their legislators are encouraged to travel to Topeka on Wednesday, Feb. 6, for a pair of hearings and possible action on a major tax bill with implications for the state budget and K-12 funding. 

School Finance. The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance has scheduled a hearing on SB 44, which would enact Gov. Laura Kelly’s school funding recommendation, in Room 144-S at 1:30 p.m. KASB believes this proposal has the best chance to resolve the Gannon lawsuit and provide stable, adequate school budgets for the next four years. The bill adds the State Board of Education’s “inflation adjustment” to the increased school funding approved last session in response to the Gannon case. 

KASB and other education organizations plan to testify, but board members, superintendents and parent advocates of individual districts and organizations are encouraged to offer brief oral or written comments. Contact committee assistant Amy Robinson at 785-296-7368 for deadlines and guidelines for conferees. Committee members and other information can be found at this link. 

School Board Officers. The Senate Committee on Ethic, Elections and Local Government has scheduled a hearing on SB 7, which moves the date for election of school board officers from July to January, but allows boards to set another date at that meeting, also on Wednesday, in Room 142-S at 9:30 a.m.  

At fall regional meetings, KASB discussed this issue of moving the date for election officers from July each year, which followed the old cycle of electing school board members in April, to January, when board members take office after elections now held in November. KASB members appeared to have no consensus on which date was preferred, and KASB’s Delegate Assembly did not take a position. 

However, this bill allows local flexibility. The “default” date would be moved to the regular meeting in January, but board members could vote at this time to election officers at a different date during the year. Because KASB did not take specific position, it is important for school board to express their opinion on this change. 

To testify in person or in writing, contact committee assistant Randi Walters, at 785-296-7389. 

On either bill, contact KASB for assistance in preparing testimony. 

Tax Policy. In addition to these two hearings, the Kansas Senate may take action next week on SB 22. The bill is designed to avoid increasing state individual and corporate income taxes following changes in the federal tax code. While KASB does not have a position on these specific tax policy changes, we are deeply concerned about passing the bill before resolving the school finance case. 

The bill is estimated to reduce state tax revenues next year (2020) by almost $200 million, and in future years by more than $100 million annually. The actual impact could be higher or lower, because the state has relatively limited ability to estimate the impact. 

Based on the current fiscal note, the bill is estimated to put the state general fund in a deficit by 2022 under the Governor’s budget proposal. (However, even without this bill, the SGF is expected to be a deficit by 2023 under Governor’s budget, including the current school finance plan and the inflation adjustment.) 

KASB encourages legislators to act cautiously on state policy as many programs, including K-12 funding is only beginning to recover from previous tax cuts restored in 2017.

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