What did not pass legislature important for schools this year

Dr. Stuart Little discussing the Shawnee Mission legislative platform last year before the session started.

Sometimes what doesn’t happen is as important as what does happen. For K-12 education, that may summarize this year’s Kansas legislative session.

Dr. Stuart Little, who lobbies in Topeka for the Shawnee Mission School District, called the session “a holding pattern” for most of the education issues. “Nothing earth-shaking passed,” Little said, and “most interesting is what didn’t pass.” On the finance side, schools gained very little – no increase to base state aid this year and only a $14 increase next year, Little said. Which is better than higher education fared, taking across-the-board budget cuts for both budget years.

The issue clouding the school finance picture is the much-awaited Kansas Supreme Court ruling on an appeal of the Gannon suit which challenged the current level of state school funding. Arguments on the appeal are scheduled for this fall.

In the ‘did not pass’ category were several bills that Dr. Little expects to come back again next year. Among those are a challenge to the Common Core standards that have been in development for years, a charter school initiative, a reading requirement that could mandate repeating an elementary grade, and a scholarship program that could benefit private schools. All of those efforts were pushed by conservative legislators.

The school exemption for concealed carry of guns in public buildings was a bright spot for public schools, but a downside, especially for Shawnee Mission, was the failure to get any traction on measures that would have allowed more local dollars to be used for school funding.