Moving Past the Impasse of School Finance

Today’s guest post is brought to you by David Smith, MainStream Coalition Board Member and Chief of Public Affairs for the Kansas City, Kansas Public School District.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 was the 100th day of the 2017 Kansas Legislative Session (the last day that was budgeted for in the 2017 session.) Interestingly, it was also the last day of school for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. And with the failure of the Kansas Legislature to pass a new school funding formula that meets the constitutional test for adequacy, a budget for either FY 18 or FY 19, or a tax reform package that provide sufficient resources to fund either the new formula or the state budget after June 30, 2017, our district and districts across the state are left in a state of suspended animation. School districts do not know what their budget for next year will be, nor do they know if the Legislature will pass (and the Governor will sign) a constitutional funding formula which will allow them to continue to operate after June 30, 2017.

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Why the Kansas Legislature is Blocked

Wednesday will be the 100th day of the 2017 Kansas Legislative Session. In the last three weeks, while there has been a lot of work on tax reform and school finance, there has been no actual movement. We've seen threats of late nights and weekends that end instead in early Fridays and weekends spent in home districts. And it all begs the question, why?

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Testimony opposing SB 251, a school finance bill

This is MainStream's written testimony opposing SB 251, a bill to finance public schools that does not meet our requirements to fund an excellent education for all Kansas children. We also delivered written testimony at the hearing today. You can download a copy of our testimony here.

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Day 91

The same story repeats again. Last week, the Kansas Senate tried to pass the same tax reform bill, and was rebuffed. Annoyed, the Senate's Con leadership announced no further work until Monday (today) and then threatened once again to work long nights and weekends until the work is done. Meanwhile, the House did the people's work, albeit slowly, on the education finance bill.

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No Movement Last Week

Last week, the Kansas Legislature accomplished very little. Budget issues waited in the wings and school funding got some pretty obvious advice from their $50,000 advisor ("More money is needed to resolve school funding"), while tax reform issues struggled to gain any traction. Several proposals and votes were scheduled, but withdrawn, several meetings arranged then cancelled. Witness, the most significant work done on tax reform was yet another flat tax proposal.

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Where tax reform fits

Tax reform has been having a rocky road this session. The shiny new Legislature passed tax reform early in the year, only to have it vetoed and that veto sustained by just three members of the Kansas Senate. Now, in the last gasp veto session, tax reform is back, but a bill introduced Monday was withdrawn quickly Tuesday, and then another introduced that raised a smidgen more money. Were all the objections just about how much it raised? Are there other problems? What is going on?

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Here we go, redux

The Kansas Legislature has returned to work today. Ahead of them are several challenging issues, not the least of which is how to ensure the future stability of our state. With a yawning budget gap of almost $1 billion for 2018 and 2019, and a possible need of up to $750 million to fund public education, there is a clear need to put the state on solid revenue footing. No trickery will do, no hand-waving flat tax, no couch-digging utility fees, no "taxes are theft" attitude. Kansas quite simply needs to restore the revenue stripped away by Brownback's irresponsible policies.

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Education: Lion or sacrificial lamb?

The Kansas Legislature returns to work next Monday. It bears repeating that they have accomplished very little since January on the three biggest issues before them: the billon dollar revenue crater ahead of us, the July 1 deadline to create a constitutional school funding plan, and the hundred thousand Kansas who cannot get health care. They will have to cram all of that in now.

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Keep at it

With the Kansas Legislature still on break (they return May 1) the state house news may be slow, but outside of Topeka, there are plenty of opportunities to stay connected and get involved.

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Only halfway through at the end

The Kansas Legislature has gone home for their "Spring break," and will return on May 1 for what is usually the "veto session," a time designated for debating any veto the Governor has made to legislation completed in the regular session. Unfortunately, the Kansas Legislature has left town with almost nothing accomplished. No tax reform. No budget. No school finance plan. No solution to the $1 billion revenue crater facing Kansas.

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