Mark Taylor
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Gardner Edgerton school officials are no fans of Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed school finance reform plan.
Eric Hansen, business manager for the school district, pointed out several of what he considers shortfalls in the finance plan during a presentation to the school board on Jan. 9.
Brownback’s finance reform plan, which was unveiled last month, was intended to fix “a broken system” and “increase local control” for public education funding.
The current school finance formula has been in place since 1992.
The proposed plan eliminates the caps on the amount of funds schools can raise locally through local property taxes.
It also proposes at least the same amount of funding the state’s 283 school districts received this year so long as their enrollment numbers and Local Option Budget mill levy remain stable
The plan guarantees a base state aid per pupil of $4,492 and an additional supplemental fund that would be divvied out based on a new formula.
That formula uses the property values of the wealthiest districts to create a funding ceiling while current funding creates a base level of spending.
Hansen said the elimination of weightings for schools with unique challenges will hurt the district’s finances.
Fore example he said, the base state aid per pupil in 2008-09 was $4,400, but with weighting factors that number rose to $6,490.
This year’s base of $3,780 was actually $6,490 with weighting included.
The governor’s proposed base state aid of $4,492 pales in comparison, Hansen said.
“It’s important for us to not lose sight of important parts of the formula,” he said.
Hansen added that nothing in the proposed formula addresses “the $455 million that has been taken away from K-12 since 2009.”
Ron Ragan, board president, noted that the proposed formula has no provisions for state aid for school bond issues.
The state currently covers 35 percent of the cost of the school district’s bond projects.
“The thing that impacts us at this point is obviously the bond. If we don’t pass this bond now, we risk losing $25 million in state aid,” he said.
Hansen agreed.
“I can’t imagine the impact to our local taxpayers, what our mill levy would look like if we had to cover a bond issue with no state aid.”
Hansen said the new formula would not kick in until 2013-14 and he believes Brownback wants to keep the base aid per pupil at $3,780 in the meantime.