Block Grant School Finance Proposal Unveiled

Senator Ty Masterson and Representative Ron Ryckman, Jr. today unveiled the long awaited “block grant” school finance plan. The release today was essentially a press release and set of “talking points” followed by Q&A with reporters. No details of the plan are yet available.

Here’s what we know based upon the press conference.

  • School funding would increase over the next two years by about $300 million although at least half of that is required KPERS contributions. The other half we understand to be LOB equalization money.
  • The plan collapses various funding categories into one large fund in an attempt to give school districts additional “flexibility” in determining how to spend their resources.
    It would establish an “extraordinary need fund” that school districts could apply to if they found themselves with additional needs. In the press conference it was expressed that this is where districts would go if they had high student growth. It would require application to the state finance council.
  • According to Masterson and Ryckman, the plan would restore this year’s allotments.
    We will be looking for more details which should be released over the next few days. As soon as the full plan is out and analyzed, we will provide you with more information.

What Do Educators Know?

Or for that matter, what do people who love educators know?

That’s the gist of HB 2345 which had a hearing in the House Education Committee today. The bill (no one will take credit for introducing it) would prohibit anyone who is a school employee, lives with a school employee, or has a parent, sibling, or spouse who is a school employee from serving on any Kansas school board anywhere in the state. But wait! There’s more! Living with or being related to an employee of the Kansas State Department of Education also disqualifies one from serving on any school board.

The bill would purge from school boards across the state anyone who has a connection – directly or indirectly – to a school employee from service on any Kansas school board. And let us make this clear – not just the board of the district where the employee works. ANY school board anywhere!

Clearly the idea behind this bill is to stop people with any knowledge of education or how schools function from serving on a school board. In what other profession are the professionals and their families banned from serving on a policy board?

Will the Legislature next propose that physicians and nurses and their families be banned from service on a hospital board? Will ranchers and farmers serving in the Legislature be banned from sitting on the Agriculture Committee? Will attorneys be banned from sitting on the Judiciary Committee?

House Bill 2345 joins a long list of other bills that represent the war on education being conducted under the dome in Topeka.

KNEA testified against the bill in committee.

No action was taken on the bill.

What the Press is Saying

Kansas newspapers continue to weigh in on the actions and inactions of the Kansas Legislature. The Winfield Courier called the passage of the education community’s consensus collective bargaining bills (HB 2376 and SB 136) in both chambers as a “victory in the war on education.” Read their take here.

The Garden City Telegram noted that Legislators were wasting time on ideological pursuits and failing to address the real issue – a massive budget crisis brought on by reckless tax cuts. The editor specifically called out the tendency for some Legislators to “rubber stamp” issues brought to them by “the Kansas Chamber, Kansas Policy Institute, and Koch brothers.” They also referenced the willingness of Kansas Legislators to go along with anything from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Read their take here