Kansas Superintendents Skeptical Over Brownback Funding Plan

Superintendents from across Southeast Kansas have said that they are skeptical about Governor Sam Brownback's new school funding plan, which would see some area schools receive an increase in funding, while others would remain the same, writes Roger McKinney at The Joplin Globe.

Proponents of Brownback's education funding plan say that they will end lawsuits currently pending over how Kansas finances public education, with the Kansas Supreme Court mandating large increases in aid to public schools.

Rulings by the Supreme Court lead to a $4,492 target that was set for state aid per student. In 2008, Brownback successfully pushed legislators to cut base state aid to $3,780 per pupil, more than $700 short of the Supreme Court target.

But now, Brownback's new proposal, which would start in the 2013-14 school year if approved by legislators, would reset the base per-pupil state funding amount to $4,492.

To balance the books, Brownback is looking to eliminate "weighting," which provides additional funds based on the number of non-English speaking and subsidized-lunches students. But critics say these students need these additional resources.

"There's no point in saying, gee whiz, we're going back to the statutory $4,492, because it doesn't involve the weights," said State Board of Education member Sue Storm.

"That $4,492 is not nearly as much as it appears."

As testament to how split opinion is over this, another State Board of Education member Ken Willard spoke out about Brownback's proposal, this time in favor of it, saying that it "is a whole lot more understandable" than the current formula.

Destry Brown, superintendent of Pittsburg Community Schools, said it appears the plan would come "with a lot of inequities."

"There are a lot of unanswered questions and not a lot of information out there. But I do know that no district with more than 2,250 kids ends up a winner, though some small districts would be helped."

Galena Superintendent Brian Smith said he needs more information, but what little information he's already had is enough to raise concerns.

"I have some very grave concerns," Smith said.

He said the governor's plan appears to try to take the heat off the Legislature to fund schools and places the burden on local school boards, writes McKinney.

"We'll probably be in good shape for a year or so, but we'll struggle without raising property taxes" in future years, Smith said.

01 2, 2012
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