The Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission school districts wouldn’t lose state aid next year under equalization plans introduced in the Kansas House and Senate.
The identical proposals were presented at committee meetings Tuesday, and hearings are scheduled on Wednesday.
“This bill puts us in the best position to keep our schools open,” said Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “And it doesn’t pick winners and losers.”
Under a February ruling by the state Supreme Court, lawmakers must enact a plan to equalize funds among richer and poorer school districts by June 30. If they don’t, the court said, the state’s public schools won’t open for the 2016-17 school year.
Johnson County lawmakers opposed earlier proposals that would have cost several school districts in the county millions in state aid next year.
The latest proposal uses a less generous equalization formula for a category of state aid called “local option budget.” The funds that are cut are then used for “hold harmless” aid.
The Shawnee Mission district, for instance, would see about a $3 million decrease in local option budget, or LOB, aid but would receive that amount in hold harmless aid. Blue Valley would lose $2.4 million in LOB aid and receive that amount in hold harmless aid.
While no district loses funds under the proposal, very few gain any dollars.
Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican and Senate Ways and Means Committee chairman, said he has been assured the proposal meets the state constitutional requirement for equalization.
“My primary role is to satisfy the court so they don’t close the schools,” Masterson said.
But Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, was skeptical that such a method of shifting money around would satisfy the court ruling.
“We take it away from one pot and put it in another pot,” she said.