Finch votes no as education bill ‘rammed through’ Kansas House

By State Rep. Blaine Finch, 59th District, Franklin and Osage Counties

Greetings from the floor of the Kansas House. As I write to you we are sitting on what is termed a call of the House. This procedure is used when some members of the House are absent. All present members of the House have to remain in their seats and the Sergeant at Arms is sent to find absent members and compel them to come back to the chamber to vote.

The subject of the call this week is house substitute for SB 7. This bill repeals the present school funding formula and replaces it with “block grants” to school districts. I am voting no on this bill for a number of reasons.

First, this bill was hastily written and rammed through without proper vetting. This bill was introduced last Thursday afternoon, heard in committee on Monday and brought to the floor of the House less than a week later. It affects the largest single expenditure we make as a state and it literally was invented and pushed through in a little more than four working days. We have an obligation to fully deliberate and carefully consider all legislation, but particularly something as important as this. When we don’t, unintended consequences are likely.

Second, this bill disproportionately impacts small rural districts like ours, while larger and wealthier districts suffer fewer cuts. We should pass legislation that gives every Kansas school child the same high quality education. This bill favors rich districts and their students at the expense of more modest districts like ours, thus making it harder for our children to receive the education they deserve.

Third, this bill repeals our existing funding formula without replacing it. I do believe that we can improve upon the existing formula, either through extensive changes or outright replacement. But what we cannot do is throw out the whole thing without doing the hard work of crafting its successor. There’s an old saying that the best time to look for a new job is when you already have one. The same principle applies here as well.

Fourth, this bill is being sold as a local control bill. It is not. It cuts funds to local school districts; forces them to trade present cuts for the promise of potential future increases in funds districts do not get to use in the classroom; and was not requested by local boards. If we are truly supporting local control, then the first step is to implement policies supported by local folks.

Fifth, this bill has been called a “time out” in the school finance litigation. The reality is that we do not get a time out in life. Legislatures cannot avoid their duties by changing the law in the middle of a lawsuit. This will ensure more litigation, more money wasted on attorney fees and less money spent where it should be.

Finally, this bill calls for $300,000,000 in new spending at a time when we are already $600,000,000 in the hole. This kind of reckless deficit spending has to stop if we are to restore balance and place our fiscal house in order.

As I have written this update to you, two absent representatives have shown up and the final vote has been taken, by a vote of 63-58 SB 7 has passed.

I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and welcome your thoughts and comments. Contact me at [email protected] or 785-296-7655.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas