Last Updated: November 29, 2011
This article appeared in the November 2011 Rural Policy Matters.
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Administration staffers of Governor Sam Brownback are shopping a school finance reform proposal that will likely be introduced to legislators next session. Part of the proposal involves the state’s collecting a portion of local property taxes to be redistributed among districts to help equalize funding in low-wealth districts. The plan would also shift some funding to a block grant system. Another significant change is the Brownback administration’s proposal to remove the property tax cap, a move that low-wealth districts fear could increase inequity rather than reducing it. Local sales taxes would also be permitted under the plan.
Brownback has said he wants to reform the formula because of two pending funding lawsuits. (See background here.)
School officials and attorneys involved with the suits have pointed out that any new funding formula would likely be challenged in court. They also contend that the state does not need a new formula but needs to fully fund the current formula.
Kansas districts suffered a loss of $232 per student in state aid this year, the third consecutive annual cut to per-pupil funding. The cuts continue to spur consolidation of small districts, which are also pressed into mergers by financial incentives.
Legislators also recently changed accounting laws so that districts can use reserve funding — typically for emergencies — for salaries, utilities, and other everyday expenses.
Local coverage of publicity tour:
Coverage of current school funding cuts:
Read more from the November 2011 Rural Policy Matters.