Lawmakers launched a special education study committee Friday with an ambitious agenda to come up with recommendations on a new school finance formula and student educational outcomes.
After hearing details about K-12 school expenditures, Rep. Jerry Lunn, an Overland Park Republican, said one issue to pursue is the potential savings of sharing services among school districts.
The state has more than 280 school districts — several large urban and suburban districts but many small, rural districts. The median district enrollment is 550 students.
“I hope what comes out of this is the opportunity for more efficiency,” Lunn said.
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The Special Committee on K-12 Student Success, a 15-member interim committee made up of House and Senate members, on Friday reviewed school districts’ classroom expenses and teacher pay and benefits.
The state’s current block-grant plan for financing schools, which replaced a per-pupil formula, has come under fire. Block grants were approved for two years until the state could draw up a new formula.
Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court will hear arguments in November in a suit filed by several districts saying the state has failed to adequately and equitably fund K-12 education.
Anthony Hensley, Senate minority leader and committee member, said after the meeting he doubted whether lawmakers would write and pass a new school finance formula. Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, was an advocate of the previous per-pupil formula, which he said would have worked well except that it was underfunded.
“I don’t think we have the time or the political will to adopt a new school finance formula,” he said. “It will probably get deferred until after next year’s election.”
Rep. Ron Highland, a Wamego Republican and committee chairman, said the panel’s next meeting Nov. 10 will focus on expenses outside the classroom, followed by a discussion of student outcomes.
“Then we’ll tie all of that together,” he said.