Kansas Schools Set for Financial Reform

Sam Brownback's administration has unveiled its much anticipated education finance reform plan which would change how schools in Kansas receive funding by creating an "equal playing field" for all school districts, writes KTKA.com.

The proposals intend to give the state's 283 school districts the power to raise funds through local property tax hikes. These reforms will create a much more fair and flexible plan, says Governor Sam Brownback's policy director.

Under the proposals the base state of aid per pupil will be set at $4,492.

However, critics claim these plans would give wealthier school districts the upper hand. USD 501 superintendent Dr. Julie Ford says:

"I was worried about the little districts. I mean, having worked with the state department too, little districts have their own unique challenges."

This is disputed by policy director Landon Fulmer, who believes that equality in money distribution is at the heart of the plan.

"We provide a great amount of equalization to the very poorest school districts initially so that when the wealthier districts are perhaps pitching in more in local property taxes to their education through their elected officials to the school board, they are not dis equalized (sic) immediately."

Under the proposal, a property tax equalization fund would take a 20 mill levy from each district and then would pay back districts with lower property tax values.

To insure per-pupil funding levels don't drop in districts, a supplemental fund would make payments to districts that did not have their base line requirements met.

Dr. Julie Ford says:

"This is a different way of looking at weighted formulas. We've counted on those weightings especially when you have free and reduced ELL numbers and so you know we are really going to have to look at this to see how and what does play out."

Fulmer says the new plan "allows local school boards to raise property taxes and keep all monies locally raised to spend on educational needs."

For Brownback's administration this is seen as a win-win situation for poor districts.

"We have to take account the resources that we have, that's what this formula is all about. We have what we have we want to try to distribute it in the most fairest and equitable way," said Fulmer.

The proposed plan would take effect in the 2013- 2014 school year, after the Kansas state board of education meets again to further discuss the proposal.

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