The Kansas Legislature gave Johnson County schools a somewhat sour victory when it finally passed a school finance bill Sunday night.
The bill raises the cap on the local option budget, which means local districts can now raise up to 33 percent of their general fund amounts through property taxes. Currently, the cap is 31 percent. Johnson County districts have long sought a way to put more money into classrooms.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Gov. Sam Brownback sent a message when he made a personal visit to a meeting at which superintendents of the Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and Olathe school districts were speaking to legislators. Johnson County has a big voice.
Unfortunately, any sense of satisfaction for a school funding victory was muted by other elements of the bill.
Legislative leaders used the local option budget increase as a ploy to coerce enough lawmakers into accepting poison pills, including elimination of the due process hearings that protect teachers in Kansas against arbitrary firings.
This was not an action taken at the request of local school leaders. Rather, it is a pet project of national conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity, which had people lobbying lawmakers in the statehouse over the weekend.
The upshot is that Kansas teachers, who already receive among the lowest salaries in the nation, could now lose their jobs if they run afoul of a parent, a principal or a community leader.
The final bill also allows corporations to make tax-deductible contributions to scholarship funds for certain students to attend private schools. Apparently many lawmakers haven’t grasped the urgency of the state’s fiscal crisis. The best thing Kansas can do for schools is to fund them adequately. But legislators keep giving money away.