Superintendents from Johnson County’s three biggest school districts made their case Wednesday against a bill that reworks how state money is doled out for bridging the gap between property-rich and property-poor school districts.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues from Olathe and Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley Superintendent Tom Trigg called the proposal an “anti-Johnson County bill” because it takes about $11 million from Johnson County schools, or roughly about a quarter of the money it cuts from all districts statewide.
“We feel that very, very strongly,” Trigg told Johnson County legislators at a luncheon meeting at the capitol.
Lawmakers want to rewrite part of the school finance formula that supplements property-poor districts so they don’t have to push property tax rates higher than wealthy districts to raise the same amount of money.
The change was proposed after the Legislature allocated $130 million for supplemental aid last year to meet an order from the state Supreme Court. However, the bill came in $54 million higher than lawmakers expected.
Some conservative lawmakers are angry that they didn’t learn sooner about the inflated cost of last year’s school finance bill, especially because the state is facing a $600 million budget deficit that’s been blamed on income tax cuts enacted by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission, for instance, saw big jumps in the amount of money they received in supplemental aid because of changes in enrollment and property values across the state.
Trigg told lawmakers that if they are going to change the law, they should wait until next year so that mid-year budget cuts aren’t needed.
Brownback last week announced about $28 million in cuts for elementary and secondary education. The cuts begin March 7.
The governor suggested those cuts could be reversed if the Legislature changes the funding formula that puts poor school districts on equal footing with rich districts.
Meanwhile, the Senate proposal still sits in a committee where it is unclear when it might be voted on. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Ty Masterson of Andover, said he is not trying to bankrupt schools.
Masterson, chairman of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, said he is looking for ways so that schools wouldn’t be hurt by his proposal.
“I am looking for options to make sure that nobody has to stop a bilingual program or not buy a textbook,” Masterson said.
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