Danedri Thompson
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A day after unveiling a proposal to overhaul of the state’s school finance formula, Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan is receiving tepid response from both sides. A Kansas teacher’s union and a state think tank that advocates for free market solutions have both issued press releases giving the Governor’s plan low marks.
“All things considered, we have to give Gov. Brownback’s school finance reform plan an ‘incomplete,’” Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute.
Kansas National Educator’s Association Vice President Karen Godfrey said the plan gives “bleeding Kansas” a new meaning.
“While his plan does not include new cuts, schools can bleed to death as inflation eats up funding or raise local property taxes just to stay alive,” Godfrey said.
Under Brownback’s finance reform plan, there are no caps to the amount of funds schools can raise through local property taxes. The new funding formula promises that each of the state’s 283 school districts will receive at least the same amount of funding they received this year provided their enrollment numbers and local option mill levy remain stable.
The plan will guarantee a base state aid per pupil of $4,492 and an additional supplemental fund that will 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.
A key goal of Brownback’s Roadmap for Kansas is to increase the percentage of fourth graders who read at grade level by 9 percent.
However, Trabert said in a press release that Brownback’s school funding plan doesn’t address educational outcomes.
“Funding is important, but that’s not what drives achievement,” Trabert said. “Total aid to schools increased from $3.1 billion in 1998 to $5.6 billion in 2011. Yet reading proficiency levels, according to the U.S. Department of Education, remain relatively unchanged at about 35 percent.”
Using current funding as a baseline is “deceptive,” Godfrey said.
“…The harm has already occurred…Brownback is institutionalizing the massive cuts our schools have experienced, thus keeping our funding at this level of harm,” Godfrey said in a press release. “KNEA teachers want to undo the harm.”