Archive for Monday, April 21, 2014

Brownback to sign school finance bill Monday; supports tenure repeal

April 21, 2014

Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday said he will sign into law the new school finance bill, which would increase funding to schools but also repeal tenure for teachers.

"There's a lot of really good pieces to the bill overall," Brownback said.

The measure will provide $150 million with about half going to schools and half in property tax relief, Brownback said.

For the Lawrence school district, the bill would provide about $1 million in local property tax relief by adding more state funding for the district's local option budget. That money would replace funds currently being raised through local taxes.

Overall, though, the bill would result in a net loss of $1.7 million in total spending authority, according to school district officials, mainly because students at the district's two virtual schools would no longer count toward calculating the local option budget.

But Lawrence could replace about $1.4 million of that by taking advantage of a provision that allows districts to increase their LOB's, something Superintendent Rick Doll has said he will recommend if the bill becomes law.

The Baldwin City school district will get an additional $471,036 in state funding from the bill, according to Kansas State Department of Education estimates. That includes $162,471 in new aid for capital outlay expenses.

“Overall, it's not a lot more money for us, other than the capital outlay money,” said Baldwin City Superintendent Paul Dorothy. “But as far as our operating fund, general funds, it doesn't add a lot to that.” Baldwin City schools could also generate up to $314.903 beyond that if it chooses to raise its LOB up to the new maximum.

The Eudora school district will see an additional $615,428 in state funding from the bill, and could generate yet another $464,435 by taking full advantage of the LOB provision.

Those estimates are based on each district's current enrollment and are subject to change depending on whether their enrollment goes up or down next year.

It will also repeal due process rights for public school teachers who achieve tenure after three years on the job.

Brownback said now local school districts can decide whether to offer tenure.

"It makes it a local issue, and I think that's a good place for it to be," he said.

Local school district officials, however, say they're taking a wait-and-see approach to that issue.

“Our board will be very cautious on how we move forward on that law as it's written,” said Dorathy of the Baldwin City district. “There may be some challenges with that. Our district will be very cautious in moving forward in considering teachers have no due process at this point.”

Lawrence school board vice president Shannon Kimball said she was disappointed when that provision was added as an amendment to the bill without any public comment or committee hearings.

“Regardless of where you fall on whether that's a good policy change or not, I find the way it was handled distasteful,” Kimball said. “It's not the way we should be handling policy in Kansas.”

The bill was approved earlier this month by the Legislature with only Republican votes. Teacher groups have been highly critical of the provision to repeal tenure.

The funding portion of the bill is meant to address a Kansas Supreme Court order in March to increase funding to poor school districts by July 1.

The proposal to repeal tenure was attached by Republicans without any public hearing or public input on the measure.

Asked if that was the proper way to repeal tenure, Brownback said, "I'm impressed the Legislature got a bill through in the amount of time they were given by the court."

Brownback's remarks were made after a news conference touting higher education funding at the Kansas University Medical Center.

Brownback said he would have a signing ceremony on the school finance bill later Monday.

Here's a link where people can listen in live to the governor's news conference: https://governor.ks.gov/media-room/listen-in-live.

— Staff writer Peter Hancock contributed to this report.

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