Archive for Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baldwin school board tells state representative school finance reform flawed

January 24, 2012

Members of the Baldwin USD 348 Board of Education and Superintendent Paul Dorathy informed State Rep. TerriLois Gregory on Monday they disapproved of a key element in Gov. Sam Brownback’s school finance proposal.

Gregory, R-Baldwin City, provided the board with a legislative update, focusing on the governor’s proposed overhaul of the state’s school finance formula.

The governor’s plan would do away with weighting for at-risk, special-education and English-as-a-second-language students, which gives districts added money per pupil to spend on those students. Instead, it would give districts $3,780 per student next school year to spend on their general fund needs as the wish. The per-pupil amount would increase to $4,492 in 2013-2014.

In addition, revenue from a statewide 20-mill levy would be placed in an equalization fund, which would provide some extra money for districts with lower property tax values. Under the governor’s proposal, local school boards would have the right to raise addition revenue with local property taxes. That additional authority would not be capped as are local option budgets in the current school finance plan.

One estimate she saw indicated USD 348 would receive $67,000 more in funding next school year should the governor’s proposal be approved, Gregory said. But, she said all was subject to change as the Legislature considered the plan.

Despite reservations about giving boards unlimited authority to raise taxes — especially if not tied to a requirement they get voter approval — Gregory was generally supportive of Brownback’s proposal.

“What I like about the current changes (in the governor’s plan) is that people paying taxes are closer to people spending taxes,” she said. “I like local control.”

The governor’s plan was designed to end litigation on the school finance and needed, in part, to help the state prepare for coming federal cuts in Medicaid funding, Gregory said.

Three board members expressed reservations on the plan, but Superintendent Paul Dorathy was most forceful in relating his concerns to Gregory. As written, the plan would hurt all school districts in her House district because of the disparity in their purchasing power from additional mill levy authority compared to those with such tax base boosting developments as Oak Park Mall or Wolf Creek Nuclear Plant, he told Gregory.

“If it goes the way it is going, it’s going to put a huge amount of taxes on local people,” he said. “Counties like Johnson County and Coffey County will have a huge advantage. This district can’t raise more money locally.”

“I know down the road, you’ll have Johnson County districts spending $20,000 per student, and we’ll be spending $6,000.”

The current funding formula with its weighting was complicated, Dorathy said, but Kansas courts have let it stand because it addressed questions of equal funding for districts and the recognition more dollars were needed to educate at-risk, special-ed and non-native English speaking students.

Dorathy said the governor’s proposal invited lawsuits on those issues, which he was doubtful it could withstand.

Board President Ande Parks said the plan would be especially harmful to USD 348 because it was in direct competition for teachers and staff with Johnson County schools.

In her reply, Gregory conceded the proposal was popular with the Johnson County delegation, but assured the board it would be changed to address the disparity issue Dorathy and Parks identified.

“I can absolutely guarantee you it won’t stay the way it is,” she said. “There’s too much rumbling in the halls.”

Comments

Torch 2 years, 8 months ago

The fallacy that there is fierce competition for teachers amuses me.

The Education Industry is pumping out thousands of teachers a year and most of them are tending bars right now.

Just stop trying to tell us that because a teacher has 'X' years of experience they're better than someone just coming into the field. It doesn't work that way. Because teaching is a tenured 'profession', you could be the worst one on the planet and still remain employed.

Until you eliminate tenure and the union, fire the bad teachers, and pay the good ones for their efforts there will never be improvement in teaching. Make teaching 'at-will' with one-year contracts (like Florida has done) and create a reason to perform. You might be amazed at the results.

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greyghost 2 years, 8 months ago

Thanks, Torch, for the glowing review of the teachers, staff, and administrators out at Marion Springs. They are the only school in this district to earn the prestigious Governor's Award.

I know you will be trying your 2:1 teacher ratio argument, but remember that that had been dispelled numerous times over. Remember, that MSES combined some of their grades together to have an exact student-to-teacher ratio that the other elementary schools benefited from. Hmmm, must have been all of the cold/soggy lunches they were served?

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Nathaniel Johnson 2 years, 8 months ago

I think Torch does have a point that their is a glut of teachers in the market. I also agree that the teachers union is the worst enemy of teachers by cementing the status quo. We seem to be stuck in a standoff in which the we continue to train teachers and then (through tenure and other measures) retain many of the worst. Unless a person is driven to be a teacher there is no reasonable reason to be a teacher. The pay is awful, the working conditions stressful, the hours are terrible: many teachers work 60-80 hours a week even if they do get 2 months off in the summer. Despite all this we have some amazing teachers. I really don't understand how. Oh my point though is that the article continues to point out that Representative Gregory is a Johnson County carpet-bagger. Does anyone know if she will be challenged in a primary this election cycle?

Nathaniel Johnson gruyere.emmentaler@gmail.com

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