Gardner Elementary students brush up on their writing skills on the first day of school. School funding is likely to be a hot topic when legislators head back to Topeka in January. File photo

Danedri Thompson
It’s way too early to tell how Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to rework the state’s school funding formula will change local school revenues.
“I understand they’re trying to simplify the system, and that’s fine and understandable,” said Eric Hansen, director of business for the Gardner Edgerton School District. “I don’t think there’s nearly enough information yet.”
Brownback’s policy director, Landon Fulmer, will update State Board of Education members on the administration’s plans school finance formula plans on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15.
State Board of Education members heard a brief outline of the plan during a meeting in November. Highlights include eliminating weightings in the current system for things like transportation, low enrollment and at-risk students and replacing that system with a series of block grants.
Under the proposal, districts could apply to receive supplemental funding for transportation, at-risk student costs and operational costs through a grant program.
Members of the State Board of Education are getting a sneak peak at the governor’s plans,  but the legislature will ultimately decide whether to rework the school finance formula for 283 Kansas public school districts.
Sen. Rob Olson, who represents Gardner, Edgerton, Spring Hill and parts of Olathe, said he’s also heard Senate Leadership will be forwarding their own plan to adjust the school finance formula.
“I haven’t heard what the plan is. They haven’t released it to us,” Olson said. “I’m just kind of waiting and seeing just like everybody else.”
Under the existing formula, there is a legislative ceiling to the amount of funds school boards can raise through local taxes, but that may change if Gov. Brownback’s proposal is approved. Brownback’s proposal would lift the local tax ceiling and allow counties to institute sales taxes to benefit public schools.
Whether that’s a good thing for Gardner Edgerton, Hansen can’t say.
“Where are we going to start? Where are we going to end? I think they’re trying to simplify, but at the same time they need to be a whole lot more specific of how they’re going to get from point A to point B,” Hansen said. “What it comes down to is the dollar amount.”
There’s also a lawsuit against the state over school funding to consider. Gardner Edgerton School District is one of a coalition of districts challenging whether current state funding to schools is equitable.
While state school board members will receive an update on proposed changes the funding formula, Sen. Olson said he doesn’t expect Kansans to know the full specifics of the governor’s plan until Jan. 9 – the day Brownback will give the State of the State address.