Block Grant school funding bill moving quickly through legislature

By Kansas Association of School Boards
March 10, 2015

Despite opposition from school officials statewide, Republican leaders said they will push to have the House and Senate vote on the block grant school finance formula later this week.

That would be a quick turnaround for the sweeping school funding overhaul, the details of which weren’t revealed until Friday.

On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee opened a public hearing on House Bill 2403, heard several hours of testimony, closed the hearing and planned to work on the bill today. Committee Chairman Ron Ryckman Jr., R-Olathe, is expected to fold the bill into a Senate bill and then send it to the House floor.

If the House approves the measure, then the Senate could concur with the amended Senate bill to fast-track the legislation to Gov. Sam Brownback, who recommended a block grant funding plan when the legislative session started.

Meanwhile, the Senate Ways and Means Committee today will hold a hearing on an identical block grant bill, Senate Bill 273.

The Kansas Association of School Boards opposes the measure.

School officials from across the state criticized the block grant proposal as failing to provide adequate funding and hurting poor school districts.

The bill would cut Local Option Budget and capital outlay equalization by nearly $52 million. That would fall most heavily on low-wealth districts.

In support of the measure was the Kansas Chamber, which is the state’s largest business lobby; the anti-tax Kansas Policy Institute, and a tea party aligned group, Kansans for Liberty.

Those groups said the current school finance system is too complicated, unpredictable in funding and obscures accountability.

Republican legislative leaders have said they want to approve the block grant plan so that legislators will have a dollar amount to build a budget and tax plan around. School funding makes up about 50 percent of the state budget.