Hensley: It’s time to fund the formula – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Hensley: It’s time to fund the formula

By State Senator Anthony Hensley
Kansas Senate Minority Leader, District 19

022414-hensley_anthonyThe Kansas Supreme Court affirmed that Governor Brownback and the Kansas Legislature have created an unconstitutional school finance system and now it is time to fix it. With the court’s opinion, school finance has been split into equity and adequacy.

To address the funding inequalities, the court has mandated that the Legislature fund capital outlay and local option budget equalization by July 1, 2014. This will require approximately $129 million. If no action is taken by the legislature on local option budget equalization, the court will stop local school districts from using their local option budget authority.

Capital outlay provides money for operations, such as building maintenance, heating, air conditioning, transportation, and technology. A local option budget utilizes a portion of revenue from property taxes to fund local school districts and on average makes up about 25 percent of a school district’s budget.

The local option budget equalization provides supplemental funding from the state to provide balance for districts that may be in smaller or poorer communities that have less property tax revenue. If a district utilizes the local option budget for 30 percent of their budget, any supplemental aid from the state goes towards property tax relief.

In terms of adequacy, the Supreme Court ruled that the district court must further review and determine if lawmakers have also failed to fund schools adequately. This is what will impact the base state aid per pupil amount – the amount that goes into classrooms, which is currently $3,838 and is statutorily required to be at least $4,492.

The three-judge panel’s initial ruling in January 2013 indicated the funding was not adequate, but the Supreme Court remanded this decision stating it did not apply the correct test to determine adequacy. I predict it will not take long for the district court to review this and provide their opinion.

The court told us nothing we didn’t already know. The school finance formula is not broken; it just needs to be funded. It is common sense to fund education, and now is the time to develop a plan to restore the cuts Gov. Brownback made to our schools. That is why I support the bill introduced late last week in the House and Senate by House Minority Leader Paul Davis. It appropriates the funds to comply with the court’s rulings. It is the first step in providing equal opportunities to Kansas children – regardless of where they live – and providing hardworking Kansans with much needed property tax relief.

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