Proposed school funding fix puts SMSD’s Hinson, Rep. Rooker at odds

Jay Senter - June 24, 2016 8:00 am
Superintendent Jim Hinson lent Shawnee Mission's support to a bill opposed by some House representatives from the area.
Superintendent Jim Hinson lent Shawnee Mission’s support to a bill opposed by some House representatives from the area.

Fairway Rep. Melissa Rooker expressed disappointment Thursday in the wake of news that the Shawnee Mission School District had endorsed a school funding fix that could cut half a percent from every district in the state’s operating budgets to pay for an injection of $38 million into equity funding.

That plan, put forward by Senate Ways and Means Chair Ty Masterson and House Appropriations Chair Ron Ryckman, Jr., would sap nearly $3 million from the funding Shawnee Mission had expected to receive through the block grant bill.

Shawnee Mission was among five key districts that offered public endorsements for the Masterson-Ryckman bill, with Hinson filing testimony suggesting tepid support for the approach: “The resolution of a crisis must bring compromise, and with compromise, generally no one is happy, which is the current situation. Success does not necessarily equate to happiness.” Here’s his full statement:

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The support of Shawnee Mission and other Johnson County school districts for the plan struck some as a marked departure from their posturing last week, when they showed solidarity in lobbying for a solution that would ensure no districts lost money.

The move frustrated Rooker, who took to Twitter to say the following:

Rooker told the Shawnee Mission Post she believed district leaders were jumping to the conclusion that there was no alternative to the Masterson-Ryckman bill. In fact, she had been working with a group of fellow legislators on a competing plan, one she argued would both pass court muster and provide a mechanism for restoring lost funding to districts harmed by the redistribution. That plan, which proponents dubbed “safe harbor,” would have used untapped money from a variety of state agencies — including the Division of Motor Vehicles, the job creation fund, and Children’s Initiative funds — to provide the $38 million equity injection most believe the courts will require.

Rooker’s group also proposes introducing a separate bill that would allow districts hurt by the equity financing reshuffle to apply to for grants from the extraordinary needs fund to replace losses in capital outlay or local option state aid.

Rooker and other northeast Johnson County moderates expressed concerns that the Masterson-Ryckman plan may not pass court muster because it takes money out of district’s operating budgets, which the court may view as hindering the adequacy of school funding in an attempt to fix the equity problems. Her group’s dual approach, on the other hand, would be more likely to meet the court requirements since it didn’t cut into other education funding, she said.

The Ryckman-Masterson plans was approved in both of their committees Thursday, meaning it can be brought up on the House and Senate floors for debate and vote.

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