Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley fare well, KCK, Lawrence suffer under proposed equity fix

Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Jim Hinson.
Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Jim Hinson.

A school funding bill on its way to the House and Senate for a vote would allow the Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley School Districts to keep millions in funding they had been guaranteed under the block grant bill.

Leaders from the two Johnson County districts came out in favor of the measure during deliberations Wednesday on the new finance plan, which is intended to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court’s directive to meet the constitution’s requirement that the legislature equitably fund K-12 schools. An earlier plan floated in the House Appropriations committee last week would likely have satisfied the Supreme Court requirement as well — but would have transferred $1.7 that had been guaranteed under the block grant bill away from Shawnee Mission schools, prompting the objection of district leaders. SB 515, the new bill, includes a provision to “hold harmless” districts for funding they were set to receive under the block grants.

“The equalization solution in (the legislation) may disappoint some who glimpsed brief hope of a windfall by some earlier potential solutions,” Superintendent Jim Hinson said of the bill, as reported by the Topeka Capital-Journal. “This bill, however, appears to satisfy exactly what the block grant intended: to provide budget stability and funding as expected for one more year while a school finance formula is written.”

SB 515 would, however, have a considerably less favorable impact on the budgets of some neighboring districts in eastern Kansas. Kansas City, Kan., and Lawrence schools each stand to see a reduction in funding of more than $2 million compared to the plan considered last week. Wichita schools would see their payments come in nearly $10 million lower than under the first plan.

The House and Senate are working to approve a funding solution that passes muster under the Supreme Court’s equity ruling by Friday, the final day the legislature will be in session before a scheduled break.

You can find a fully analysis of the impact of the proposed funding plan from Schools for Fair Funding here. A chart the group produced showing winners and losers under last week’s bill compared to SB 515 is below: