Elimination of the School Funding Formula
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Over the past two weeks the legislature was focused on SB7, a bill that eliminates the current school funding formula and replaces it with block grants. This bill was written by the House and placed in a Senate shell, thus eliminating the opportunity for the Senate to amend the bill once it was passed by the House. As we wait for the Governor to sign the bill into law, I want my constituents to know my sincere appreciation for sending me hundreds of e-mails about this bill. I received exactly ONE e-mail asking me to support the bill, and knowing that my job is to represent the people, I voted NO. The bill passed in the House with 64 votes and in the Senate with 25 votes (needed 63 and 21 respectively to pass).
To summarize SB 7, the funding formula that was originally put in place in 1992 and has been amended 8 times since is now gone. A formula, which currently has a base state aid per pupil amount and weightings to enhance funding for students or situations that require additional funding, is supposed to be rewritten over the next two years. In the interim, school districts will be funded based on block grants equal to FY2015 levels. Schools may apply for extra funding that will be available from an "extraordinary need" fund.
So why did I vote against this bill?
---Some saw this as the last train out, but no effort has been made to amend the formula for over two years. I cannot be totally "parochial" when it comes to legislation that impacts the entire state. Even though this "train" was not as bad as it could have been for SMSD, it offers nothing in the way of stability long term. Eliminating the formula without any mention of what might replace it was as reckless as it comes.
---The bill was rushed through the House, moving from introduction to passage in both bodies of the Legislature in just twelve days. Allocating education dollars is tremendously important and complex, and such a critical bill should be completely debated and understood before passage.
---The former school finance formula ensures educational equity by assigning weightings to students with more expensive educational needs. Eliminating that finance formula does not resolve the underlying issue in the pending Gannon legal challenge: Kansas lawmakers must choose to suitably fund our schools.
---During the Floor debate, SB 7 was determined to be a "policy bill," rather than an "appropriations bill." There is no guarantee that any funding in this bill will actually occur. Given the state's troubling financial outlook, it is likely that the money each school district actually receives will be reduced.
Last weekend, I was a guest on KCUR's Statehouse Blend to further discuss the block grant bill. You can listen to the full podcast online.
KanCare Expansion Hearing
This past week, the House Health and Services Committee heard two days of testimony on expanding the Kansas Medicaid program, KanCare. In a standing-room-only hearing Wednesday, over 150 supportive health care providers, businesses, and citizens provided the best testimony I have heard since I began in the legislature. I am strongly committed to finding a Kansas solution to build on our existing KanCare system, insure more Kansans, and protect our state's hospitals.
The Vision 2020 committee, of which I am a member, spent the beginning of the session thoroughly examining the issue and creating a plan that would allow the state hospitals to pay for the state's share of the costs of expansion. However, the Secretary for the Department of Health and Environment (who is a member of Governor Brownback's Cabinet) testified that expanding KanCare must also include funding the waiting list for support services for Kansans with disabilities. It appears that expanding KanCare is still an uphill climb, especially since any further development depends on House Leadership deciding to bring the issue to the Floor for debate.
Other Statehouse Happenings
The bill I introduced to allow KanCare reimbursement for human donor breast milk prescribed to infants advanced out of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday. You can read more about the bill here.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Sarah Dooley spent part of her Spring Break as a shadow and page in Topeka. Sarah is a freshman at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Thank you, Sarah!
State Library Resources
Kansas Government Information – Online Library
The State Library of Kansas provides the public online access to Kansas government publications. The State Library's Government Information Online Library has close to 5,000 records and is growing daily. This digital collection provides access to current and historical Kansas state government information. Many of these publications are not available on the Internet other than at the State Library's Online Library. You can access this digital collection at no charge.
-- Election stats, 1899-1990.
-- Kansas Department of Commerce Annual Reports, 1987-2013
-- KDOT News Releases, 1999-2014
-- Kansas State Fire Marshal's newsletter (The Trumpet), 1970-2014
-- Annual Collections of Kansas Governors' press releases:
-- Kansas Senate and House Journals, 1920-1939 (State Library staff are in the process of scanning these volumes)
Upcoming Legislative Deadlines
This Wednesday, March 25, will be the last day to consider non-exempt bills that originated in the Senate. We will therefore be spending the majority of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on the House Floor debating and voting. While the House is in session you can listen to the live audio proceedings by visiting kslegislature.org and clicking the microphone in the top right corner of the page.
As always, I am thankful to represent you in Topeka. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow my "Representative Barbara Bollier" page on Facebook, or visit my website at www.barbarabollier.org.
Rep. Barbara Bollier
State Representative, District 21
Kansas House of Representatives
785-296-7686 (Topeka Office)