There’s little doubt about what the legislature needs to do to comply with the state supreme court’s ruling in the K-12 finance case: put more money into the system. But exactly where that money will come from is likely to be the big question of the 2018 legislative session that will gavel in next week.
That was the message a number of northeast Johnson County legislators delivered during the NEJC Chamber’s Legislative Preview breakfast ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Rep. Melissa Rooker, the Fairway Republican who has been a key figure in negotiations about school funding issues in recent years, said that the committees tasked with addressing the court ruling have a good sense of what steps they need to take to meet the constitution’s adequacy and equity requirements. She noted that the court had deemed the funding mechanism currently in place as sufficient in theory, provided the legislature puts enough money into the formula.
Thus, said Rooker and Democratic Rep. Jarrod Ousley, the main issue will be how the legislature chooses to fund the injection of hundreds of millions of dollars in new money into the K-12 system. Both Rooker and Ousley noted that budget projections for the past several months had come in ahead of projections, making the task less onerous that it could have been.
“It may not be as huge a crisis as we once though,” Ousley said.
But there’s little doubt that the legislature will still have to find a new revenue source for schools. Ousley said the two ideas he’s heard tossed around include an increase in “sin taxes” on products like alcohol and tobacco and the introduction of a new sales tax on services. Ousley said he saw issues with both ideas. For one, with Johnson County located so close to the state line, many Kansans here may simply go to Missouri to buy cigarettes and beer and avoid higher prices. As for a sales tax on services, Ousley said he thought it would be a “deterrent to small business” and would complicate administration from a number of business owners.
During her remarks, Rooker also noted that budget cuts to social service agencies were putting additional stresses on the K-12 system that legislators needed to keep in mind when they were discussing how much money to invest.
“If you look at the pressure that cuts in the Department for Children and Families have put on our schools to deliver services to children who arrive at the school house at 8 in the morning with a world of problems that they’ve brought to school with them, and in the absence of any other avenue to provide service to them, it gets put on our schools to provide,” Rooker said. “The mission of our schools is to educate. But they can’t get to that core function if a child is sitting there hungry or homeless or as some of our schools have learned, without a clean set of clothes to wear.”
Overland Park Rep. Stephanie Clayton said that she hoped the 2018 session would see a return to a governing approach that provided stable, reliable funding for Kansas schools. She said people are attracted to Kansas for its stability over anything else.
“They do not move here because it is cutting edge or because it is fancy, but rather because we offer stability and we offer reason and we offer a safe space to give our children a state of the art eduction,” she said. “That is my goal, as I move forward, to make sure that you have a government that respects you and that you can trust. And one that shows you respect by frankly providing you with the most boring but the most essential thing in the world, which is reason and stability.”
Full video from the session, including remarks from Sen. Barbara Bollier and Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, is embedded below:
NEJC Chamber Legislative Preview breakfast. Rep Yoder may be making remarks at the end.
Posted by Shawnee Mission Post on Friday, December 22, 2017