Capitol Update: Bollier attends March for Our Lives in D.C., is keeping close eye on K-12 funding ideas

Sen. Barbara Bollier.

Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Cindy Holscher, Rep. Jan Kessinger, Sen. Pat Pettey and Sen. Barbara Bollier are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Sen. Bollier’s filing:

This past weekend I was invited to speak in Philadelphia at the American Medical Women’s Association international meeting on the topic of physician advocacy, specifically the intersection of medicine and public policy. While I was there, I found out that only 10 percent of current legislators are physicians, and of those doctors, only 1 percent are women.

Bollier at Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
As a bonus, I was able to incorporate attending the March for Our Lives into my weekend. Seeing millions of Americans come together to plea for change regarding gun violence issues was such an inspiring moment in my life. I am a founding member of American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention and have been a strong advocate for reasonable gun laws that can help reduce the violence we are witnessing in this country.

This year I introduced a “red flag” bill (SB 431), and while even the NRA is supporting these types of bills, mine has yet to be heard in committee. My bill, which is titled an Extreme Risk Protection Order, would codify due process for law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from an individual who is determined by a judge to be at risk to him/herself or others. Current Kansas law allows law enforcement to remove guns, but there is no due process in place. The majority of District 7 constituents are deeply committed to lessening the chance of gun violence, and I will continue bring forward legislation that supports that position.

School finance cost study

Just over a week ago the legislature received the highly anticipated report by Dr. Lori Taylor on K-12 education funding in Kansas. Dr. Taylor was hired after the Supreme Court ruled in October that last year’s increase of $300 million in state aid, paid for with a tax increase, did not meet our constitutional obligation to reach the goals set forth by the State Board of Education. The court has given the legislature an April 30 deadline to respond to the ruling.

Last Monday, Dr. Taylor presented the 156-page report to the House K-12 Education Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance (I am a member). Her study used the Kansas State School Board and Department of Education’s “Kansas Can” as a basis for estimating the cost needed to fund our public education system. Three recommendations options were provided for evaluation and possible implementation.

A $451 million scenario would maintain current student achievement targets in reading and math while improving graduation rates to 95 percent. A second $1.7 billion scenario would increase achievement further and the most expensive scenario, $2 billion, uses even higher achievement standards. Her analysis would raise current annual K-12 funding from $4.652 billion to $6.438 billion, reaching $6.719 billion by 2022. Dr. Taylor’s study will undergo a review by Dr. Jesse Levin of the American Institute for Research to be presented this Thursday. Many of us believe that Dr. Levin’s evaluation will conclude that the cost estimates are too high.

One of the key issues driving the cost estimate is targeting a 95 percent graduation rate. Currently, no state in the country has a graduation rate that high; Iowa ranks at number one with a graduation rate of 91 percent. The national average is 84.1 percent. Kansas has a graduation rate of 86.1 percent placing it 22nd in the nation. Having a 95 percent graduation rate is too lofty of a goal, in my opinion.

In addition to reviewing the study, the Senate Standing Education Committee has passed two bills that resolve the equity issues raised by the Kansas Supreme Court in our new school funding formula (SB19). The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance passed a bill offered by me to fix the school transportation funding formula, making it completely transparent while maintaining the current rates of funding as determined in SB 19. Another bill was voted down that would have created an Inspector General over school funding. I voted no because with the change adding transparency to the transportation formula, no part of the school funding formula can be manipulated or misappropriated, and any school can calculate the exact amount to be paid from the state general fund. We will continue to work on changes to the formula, focusing on the evidence presented by Dr. Taylor about where and how our public education funds should be specifically directed.

Know that we will need 63 votes in the House, 21 in the Senate, and no veto from the Governor to pass a solution to give to the Supreme Court to resolve the Gannon case. Also, be watching for the possible introduction of a change to Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution which addresses school funding. We have a long way to go to get this session concluded, and I will continue to work passionately supporting the majority opinions of District 7. Thank you for the privilege and honor of serving you.