(Capital Chatter, with assistance from Tom Krebs)
month, the Special Committee on a Comprehensive Response to the School Finance
Decision met three times.
So the big questions appear to be:
· Who were its members?
· What did committee accomplish? And,
· What key roles will these legislators play during this session that will have school finance at the forefront the minute the session is gaveled in?
The members were:
· Chair Rep. Blaine Finch, House Judiciary Chair, R-Ottawa;
· Vice Chair Sen. Molly Baumgardner Senate Education Chair, R-Louisburg;
· Sen. Jim Denning, Senate Majority Leader, R-Overland Park;
· Sen. Anthony Hensley, Senate Minority Leader, D-Topeka;
· Sen. Carolyn McGinn, Senate Ways and Means Chair, R-Newton;
· Sen. Rick Wilborn, Senate Judiciary Chair, R-McPherson;
· Rep. Larry Campbell, House K-12 Budget Chair, R-Olathe;
· Rep. Steven Johnson, House Taxation Chair, R-Assaria;
· Rep. Ed Trimmer, House K-12 Budget Ranking Minority, Winfield;
· Rep. Troy Waymaster, House Appropriations Chair, R-Bunker Hill; and
· Rep. Valdenia Winn, House Education Ranking Minority, D-Kansas
The committee did not make any official recommendations in its final report. KASB did outline what it thought were the major points of discussion: the timeline for action; the impact of funding adequacy; the constitutional language in place and how that might be revisited/revised; equity issues, including allowing two districts to receive at-risk funding although their free lunch numbers didn’t meet a prescribed threshold; and questioning how districts might use additional dollars.
So what might the session look like?
First, current Governor Sam Brownback is slated to make the State of the State Address tomorrow, but the reality is clearly Kansas has a governor and a governor-in-waiting. It’s anybody’s guess as to whom legislative leaders will look to for leadership, but one is likely to be on the 2018 ballot, the other will not. That may give some idea as to whose blessings are most important.
Secondly, the key components of any bill that makes it to the governor’s desk is going to have to run the gauntlet of three committees in both chambers: thetaxers, the spenders, and the lawmakers’ lawmakers. In the Senate, that will be Tax, Ways and Means, and Judiciary. In the House, those three are Tax, Appropriations, and Judiciary along with a K-12 budget committee.
Now take a look at the committee make-up again. Senate President Wagle,
R-Wichita, and Speaker Ron Ryckman, Jr., R-Olathe, built a committee with the
session’s key players in place. (Senator Caryn Tyson, Senate Assessment and
Taxation Chair, R-Parker was the only key committee chair not serving on the
The upside? Those committees can meet from Day 1 with leadership that is knowledgeable of the issues. The Big Question? Will those chairs lead with their chambers’ leaders in mind or, particularly on the House side, which has a higher percentage of members in a Democrat/moderate coalition, lean to supporting the Court’s perspective on funding as well as turning back a constitution ballot question, at least certainly in the short term?
The worst case scenario? A bill passed and signed that doesn’t meet the Court’s standards for adequacy and equity by the July 1 deadline. Would the Court order schools closed? Would the executive branch follow the judicial branch’s dictates? Would there be more Court-approved “do-overs?” Could a Special Master be installed?
Every day, every committee meeting, and every Senate/House session will have these critical challenges as a backdrop. Every citizen of Kansas should stay well informed as so much of the future of public education, of Kansas, lies in decisions made in the Capitol over the next six months.
We have all heard the phrase,
“It takes a village to raise a child”. Sometimes we forget how true that statement is in our blessed
community. The Smoky Valley School
System would certainly not be able to sustain many of the programs we have in
place, if it were not for the “village” that keeps on giving.
This community is amazing when it comes to reaching out to help our children. I cannot name every individual, group or organization that supports our schools on a regular basis. And I commend all of you for understanding that our children are our future and our community’s greatest resource.
We have six student programs that are funded solely from an outside donor. These include CHUMS, Credit Recovery, Project Stretch Girls Club, Friends of Rachel, Boys Club and this year, after-school chess club. Hundreds of our kids have benefited from these programs over the years. Booster clubs, site councils and parent teacher organizations have worked hard to provide support and extra resources for Smoky Valley students. The Quarterback Club and the Smoky Valley Athletic Association have given regularly to support extra-curricular activities by providing equipment, coaches support, and even helped the district hire additional coaches when our participation was high in several sports.
An amazing support of the past several years has been TACOL. Students have received glasses, clothing, additional food and many other items to keep kids going strong. Our local banks and health professionals have given time and money to support our kids on many, many occasions. Don’t forget about Scott’s, who is there any time we call for assistance, and Kiwanis whose mission is all about youth. The Art’s Council provides outstanding support to the school and provides some amazing scholarships to seniors. Over the past few years several donors have set up very sizable scholarships for Smoky Valley graduates.
I have never experienced a community that gives so much. We’re not just talking about dollars, but the giving of one’s self. Whenever the school calls a local business person to present at one of our regular student career activities, we are almost always met with a hardy, “Yes, I’ll be there”. When we need parents to help with a track meet, cook burgers for the ball game, or assist with after-prom, they step up and are more than willing to help.
The officials at the City of Lindsborg have worked with the district on several projects over the years that benefit both entities. Bethany College shares many students with us that benefit our kids, and the college does an outstanding job with every Smoky Valley junior each year as they prepare for their future.
One group of people that I am especially proud of are the employees of USD #400. You might say, “Well, they get paid to work with kids”. That’s true, we are blessed to have a career in which we have an opportunity to guide, support and assist students all year long. But take a closer look at what educators and support staff are doing.
When people in our organization use their own money to buy clothes or meals for one of our kids, it’s probably not the first time. When teachers are staying late or meeting students on weekends or evenings for a study session before the ACT, they are going the extra mile. When a staff member hears about a family’s struggles, and employees get together to bring them meals, they are a part of the village. When a coach sees a student in need and takes time away from his or her own family to be with that kid, they become a child’s hero.
Teachers, bus drivers, cooks, paras, administrators, counselors and custodians are also a vital force in this village of ours. When a staff member takes time to help instill character and confidence in a child, it truly makes a difference. When that first grader gets on the bus in the morning, the warmth of a bus driver’s smile can carry that child a long way.
The Smoky Valley village is saturated with givers. I apologize for not mentioning every entity that supports USD 400; for there are so many wonderful partners. Thank you all for reaching out to help us, help the village, raise our children. Your continuous support is most appreciated.
Glen J. Suppes, Superintendent
Smoky Valley Public Schools
Chair Senator Molly Baumgardner, Vice Chair Senator-elect John Doll, Ranking Member Senator Anthony Hensley, Senator-elect Larry Alley, Senator-elect Barbara Bollier, Senator-elect Bud Estes, Senator Steve Fitzgerald, Senator Pat Pettey, Senator Dennis Pyle, Senator-elect Dinah Sykes and Senator-elect Mary Jo Taylor.
High-quality schools are a crucial building block of economic growth. They determine the quality of much of the state’s future workforce and shape the minds of future community leaders and entrepreneurs. Deep cuts in funding for schools undermine school quality in part because they limit and stymie the ability of states to implement reforms that have been shown to result in better outcomes for students, including recruiting better teachers, reducing class sizes, and extending student learning time.
After the Great Recession deeply reduced their revenues, many states cut K-12 funding. By the 2011-12 school year, 34 states were providing less general school funding per student than before the recession, after adjusting for inflation. Schools nationwide eliminated over 300,000 K-12 teaching and other positions.7 In Kansas, the funding cuts were particularly deep: 14 percent per student. Even prior to the recession, Kansas ranked slightly below the national average for school spending.8 Impacts of the cuts on Kansas were significant, including school closings and larger class sizes.9
Since then, with the economy slowly improving, most states have begun restoring some of the lost funding. Last school year, 18 states raised general state funding per student, relative to inflation, and this year 29 states did so. (Most states, though, still spend less per student than before the recession.)
Kansas, though, has continued to cut. Over the last two school years, both of which were affected by the tax cuts, Kansas has cut general K-12 funding by another 2 percent per student. Governor Brownback’s proposed budget would cut funding by another 1.8 percent, leaving it 17 percent below pre-recession levels, adjusted for inflation.
You have certainly heard the news and have seen several articles about the decision that came out Friday. But what does it really mean? In some cases we see both sides declaring victory. What does it mean for Smoky Valley and our future? Did we really WIN the lawsuit? My answer today is - "Maybe".
A portion of the ruling puts the legislature to work right away to find a way to make LOB and Capital Outlay equitable. The dollar figure used here is about $129 million. They need to take some kind of action by July 1, 2014 to fund the current law that they themselves created.
A larger piece of the ruling (one that may be overlooked immediately) is the adequacy piece. Is the funding enough? This has been pushed back to the lower courts (remember the three judge panel that ruled in favor of the schools). They are charged to use a different "measuring stick" this time, to determine adequacy. The last time they determined that schools needed an additional $440 million. So this could be a huge win for the schools, but we don't know that yet.
I want to declare that this is a victory, but we have a long road ahead of us and there is plenty of time for legislators to position themselves. It will be interesting to see how legislative leaders respond in the coming weeks. Whatever happens - there probably will not be substantial new money for our children very soon.
This long-awaited decision does reinforce that the children of Kansas need additional resources and are not treated equally. The funding that was cut MUST be restored. We are optimistic that the children of Smoky Valley will have a brighter future, and that Kansas legislators will embrace additional support for our greatest resource.
We'll continue to work with our representatives to following the ruling of our Judicial system over the next few months.
|Click for full-size image|
|Click for full-size image|
The Kansas Center for Economic Growth has released a new report on the impact of state funding cuts on local services. Here is a link the report.
According to the Center's report, local governments have seen significant decreases in state government aid that affect neighborhood community health programs, schools, safety initiatives and libraries. In particular, it notes that school districts have reduced staff and state funding for professional development has been eliminated.
According to KASB analysis of Kansas State Department of Education data, total school district full-time equivalent (FTE) employees increased from about 65,155 in 2002 to 70,409 in 2009 as state funding and local option budget authority increased, dropped to 67,860 in 2012 due to state budget cuts, and rebounded to 68,569 last year.
Total school employees actually increased about 1 percent between 2011-12 and 2012-13 after the Legislature funded an increase in base state aid per pupil and some districts increased their LOB. However, the total number of school employees is still down 2.6 percent from 2009, even after the 1 percent increase last year. The total number of employees is still about 5.2 percent above 2002.
The graph below is ACTUAL, unbiased data produced by the Kansas Legislative Research Department.
|Click for full-size image|