Shawnee Mission, legislators talk over issues for upcoming session, including TIFs, security, early intervention

SM-Admin-buildingShawnee Mission School Board members and administrators sat down with legislators who represent much of the district Thursday morning for a wide-ranging conversation about future legislative action that covered Tax Increment Financing, school safety, at-risk students, gifted education and private school vouchers, among other topics.

The groups met in preparation for the board to adopt a legislative agenda next month. The first topic of discussion was about TIF financing which grabbed attention after the district took on a review of the Meadowbrook TIF district in Prairie Village.

Sen Jim Denning had raised the question about TIFs. “I think we should do something this session,” he said at the end of the conversation. The district has pointed out that some of the projects could put more students in the schools, but restrict the capital funds available for new classrooms. Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwick said an easy fix would be if the district could continue to capture the eight mills for capital outlay.

In response to a question from Rep. Stephanie Clayton about arming teachers, the district’s head of security John Douglass said it would require extensive training to make that work. “Armed conflict is different than most people think,” Douglass said. Other security measures are more effective and cost appropriate than arming teachers, he said, noting it was his personal opinion and not district policy.

“It is impossible,” Superintendent Jim Hinson said of the prospect of training all employees adequately to be armed. Clayton said if the public schools put a policy in place to arm teachers, she would immediately move her child to a private school.

Hinson also asked legislators to fund the parents as teachers program. “Early intervention is absolutely crucial.”

Sen. Greg Smith and Board Member Cindy Neighbor, a former legislator, engaged in a brief exchange over transparency in the legislature when Neighbor said it is not as transparent as when she served. “That’s not a true statement,” Smith said.