Lots of questions, very few definite answers at Legislative Coffee Saturday

By Nick Gosnell
February 21, 2015

State Representative Don Schroeder, State Representative Les Mason, and State Senator Rick Wilborn met with the public at a Legislative Coffee Saturday morning at The Well sponsored by the McPherson Chamber of Commerce BAM! Committee.

The budget, as it is every year, was the chief issue of concern among those attending. The hard part for the legislators was giving any definitive answers at this point in the session.

Representative Don Schroeder said, "Appropriations committee is in the process of putting together the budget right now. We have subcommittees, budget committees that take a look at each of the departments. I serve on one of those. I'm on the Agriculture Budget Committee. We're looking at those budgets, we're seeing if it needs modification or change. For the most part, our budget committee as well as the other budget committees are just more or less approving the Governor's recommendations."

Schroeder cautioned though that when the full budget bill is put together, the Appropriations Committee can make any changes they want to. The process of approving the Governor's recommendations is just to give them a framework to start from.

Schroeder said, "It should be interesting to see what they come up with in the end."

More than half of the state's budget goes to K-12 Education.

State Senator Rick Wilborn outlined where he thinks education funding is going.

Wilborn said, "It is going to be a changing environment going forward. There may be some shifts in the weighting of the students."

Weighting, as it was explained by attendee and Canton-Galva USD 419 Superintendent Bill Seidl, is where schools receive additional aid for transportation, special education. or multiple language students in an effort to put all school districts on equal footing in terms of access for students.

Wilborn said, "Maybe it's all justified, I'm telling you, by my peers around me, there's a lot of question marks, and some of it's positive and some of it's not."

Wilborn said that there are approximately 480,000 students in Kansas, but the state is paying the equivalent of 590,000 through weighting.

Seidl said, "How we do business, that may be a totally different thing than how it's funded. When we talk about changes, there are probably some things that need to be changed, so we can do a better job of working with kids and so forth, but the reality of it is, how it's funded, it still takes money to make those changes."

Where that money is going to come from and how the funding will ultimately be structured is still up in the air. The Governor wants to give school districts block grants to cover their expenses, rather than using the current school funding formula.

That funding formula has come into question in the courts.

Schroder said, "I don't think we'll see the rest of that lawsuit before the end of the session."

According to an article written by McPherson native Johnathan Shorman in the Topeka Capital Journal this week, no bill has been introduced yet to outline details on how much money each district would receive under the block grant proposal.