With state tax plan finalized, Hinson affirms Shawnee Mission will move forward with no fees for all-day kindergarten

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Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Jim Hinson on Monday told the Board of Education that the district is proceeding with plans to eliminate fees for all-day kindergarten in the district and to eliminate textbook fees at the elementary school level.

The affirmation came a week and a half after the legislature approved a tax plan hiking the state sales tax and the tax on cigarettes as part of an effort to raise nearly $385 million in new revenue to balance the budget hole left in the wake of the 2012 income tax cuts. That tax plan also includes a directive that Gov. Sam Brownback will make $50 million in budget cuts to as-of-yet unspecified programs. But Hinson said Monday he didn’t have any concerns that Brownback’s cuts would affect the school district’s finances.

“We really don’t think the governor is going to cut anything from K-12,” Hinson said after the Board of Education meeting. “The block grant bill was passed and the budget has been appropriated for that, so I don’t really have any concerns at this time.”

Hinson also said that the outcome of the Gannon lawsuit in which 286 Kansas school districts claim the state has been underfunding public education is unlikely to have an effect on the district’s budget for the coming school year.

“We don’t think any ruling by the court, whenever that might happen, would impact this scenario at all,” he said.

Hinson noted during the meeting that the elimination of all-day kindergarten fees had been one of the strategic goals identified by the board after Hinson came to the district in 2013. Hinson first announced plans to move forward with the elimination of the fees in March, when the legislature was debating the controversial block grant bill that does away with the school finance formula at the center of the Gannon case. The district broke ranks with local legislators in supporting the block grant bill, which critics claim unnecessarily dismantles a school financing system that would work well if the legislature would fully fund it.

For the 2014-2015 school year, families paid $2,430 per child for all-day kindergarten in Shawnee Mission. Brownback had pitched the idea of the state funding all-day kindergarten for all Kansas kids early in 2014, but his proposal failed to gain traction with the legislature.