Shawnee Mission School District establishes task force to tackle state education funding issues, rejects attempt to make meetings open

The Shawnee Mission School District board is expecting a new education funding formula to be adopted by the Kansas Legislature this session.
The Shawnee Mission School District board is expecting a new education funding formula to be adopted by the Kansas Legislature this session.

With the Kansas Legislature expected to adopt a new school funding formula this session, the Shawnee Mission School Board has authorized a task force to identify its priorities for the upcoming debate.

Board members decided Monday that Superintendent Jim Hinson should administer the task force, which is expected to make a preliminary report at the next meeting in October.

“We have to define what we want we want to see in the new formula components,” Hinson said. “We need a task force that’s going to have to deal with these issues quickly…We have to engage the community in this conversation.”

The board, however, rejected a proposal by board member Brad Stratton that would have had board members establish and run the task force. Stratton said that would assure all the task force meetings would be open to the public.

Stratton’s proposal failed after none of the board supported his motion.

“Unfortunately, none of my board peers were willing to ‘second’ my motion to have a ‘board-appointed’ task force because of the concern that all the task force meetings would be subject to the Kansas Open Meeting Act,” Stratton said after the board meeting.

“My hope was to turn the tide of the practice of having closed-door task force meetings in the Shawnee Mission district especially with such an important subject as the future of the Kansas school finance formula.”

Hinson said he wanted to have three board members serve on the task force and hold a series of community meetings that would include outreach to PTAs and other organizations interested in education.

He also said information would be provided on the school website regarding the task force deliberations.

“We all have to stand together on this issue, which means a lot of dialogue in advance,” Hinson said.

Before the board decided to authorize the task force, it listened to presentations from attorney and civic leader Fred Logan, and its lobbyist, Stuart Little.

Logan said the Shawnee Mission school district has been critical of the school funding formula originally adopted by the legislature in 1992, and has been calling for a new one since 2003.

He also said the Kansas Supreme Court has consistently allowed school districts to pursue additional local funding, once the constitutional requirements for adequate funding for all students in the state are met.

Hinson has been a strong advocate of allowing local districts have authority to raise additional revenues to provide the quality of education desired by its parents.

Logan said he was confident the legislature will adopt a new school funding formula next spring.