Shawnee Mission School District adopts approach to upcoming State Legislative session

The Shawnee Mission School District is seeking full funding for all-day kindergarten as part of its 2017 Legislative Platform
The Shawnee Mission School District is seeking full funding for all-day kindergarten as part of its Legislative Platform 2017

With a new school funding formula looming as the biggest chore confronting the upcoming State Legislature, the Shawnee Mission School District wants a financing plan that is sustainable and adjusts for inflation.

The SM school board unanimously approved a seven-point “Guiding Principles for School Finance Reform” and a companion ten-point “SMSD Legislative Platform 2017” at its meeting Monday. The documents are intended to be general guidelines, but there were a few specific requests.

When it comes to school finance reform, the district wants the state to provide enough money to assure students throughout Kansas have access to a high quality education. It also wants individual districts to have the opportunity to raise additional funds locally.

It emphasizes that public funding should be used specifically for public education. There have been efforts in Topeka to grant tuition tax credits or vouchers for students to attend private schools, initiatives the district opposes.

The finance reform guidelines also call upon the state to adopt a formula that’s funded through a balanced tax policy that includes sales, income and property taxes.

The SMSD legislative platform includes some new initiatives in addition general guiding principles.

One in particular applies to the ongoing debate between cities offering tax incentives to spur development and the school district wanting to assure its future property tax base is protected.

Incentive programs including tax-increment financing allow the new property taxes generated by a project to be diverted to pay for eligible improvements. Schools tend to be more affected since property taxes are a big part of their revenue stream.

The SMSD legislative platform is asking the state to exclude the property tax revenues used by the schools for construction and capital projects, the capital outlay mills, to be diverted for TIF, Industrial Revenue Bonds or Neighborhood Revitalization.

This proposal would have an impact on how much TIF revenue city development agencies would have available to assist developers, and may prove controversial.

The district also is seeking full funding for all-day Kindergarten programs and increased funding for behavioral health services which includes mental health and substance abuse programs.