Government & Politics

KCK superintendent joins others opposing new school finance plan

Isidro Torres (from left), Jonathan Sang, Adriana Sabado and Yaseen Chapell worked on a physics experiment in December at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kan.
Isidro Torres (from left), Jonathan Sang, Adriana Sabado and Yaseen Chapell worked on a physics experiment in December at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kan.

The head of the Kansas City, Kan., school district said Monday that she was troubled by many parts parts of a new school finance proposal being considered by lawmakers as they debate an overhaul of K-12 funding in the state.

Cynthia Lane, the superintendent of the Kansas City Kan., district, told the House K-12 education committee that she opposed House Bill 2410, the Legislature’s latest attempt at answering a court order to adequately fund Kansas schools.

Even though parts of the bill benefit her district, Lane said, it dramatically harms other school districts.

Her district would see general state aid grow by more than $4.9 million under the bill, while total aid would grow by roughly $75 million.

“It appears to me (what) they’re trying to do is use the same funding and just move it around, some would say, like the chairs on the Titanic,” Lane said after the hearing. “The reality is, we’re going to have to invest more in Kansas kids’ education.”

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that state funding for public schools is inadequate and found that roughly a fourth of Kansas students were not being provided with basic reading and math skills.

Lawmakers were given until June 30 to create a new formula, though the court did not say how much money would be required in an adequate formula.

Estimates by others have said that it could take between $500 million and $800 million.

House Bill 2410 is the Legislature’s first major attempt to tackle that ruling.

During the hearings, districts have given the proposal mostly mixed to negative reviews.

Rep. Larry Campbell, the Olathe Republican who brought the bill forward, said he’s seeking to determine how many districts would lose aid because of formula alterations and how many would lose because they’ve experienced declining enrollment.

Campbell said he’s heard the concerns of districts “loud and clear” and that amendments are being drafted to address problems that were raised.

More than 100 school districts in the state would lose funding next year if the bill becomes law.

Rep. Valdenia Winn, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, said the hearings showed there was overwhelming opposition to the bill.

“No one has come in here to support this bill,” she said.

Winn said she expects amendments piled “sky high” to soon come.

“We will be here,” Winn said. “Because the court will not accept this.”

Monday was the last of three days of hearings on the new funding plan. Legislators will likely debate the measure later this week.

“This is a big moving target,” said Campbell, the leader of the K-12 education committee. “And folks, we realize how complex this is.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw

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