Capitol Update: Next two weeks crucial for developing new school funding plan, says Pettey

Sen. Pat Pettey at a 2016 community forum.

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. Pettey’s filing:

Monday, March 19, was declared “Kansas Celebrating Women in Public Office Day”. We were able to recognize several women in the Senate Chamber including Senate President Wagle, the first woman elected to that position, and the first woman mayor for the City of Topeka, Mayor Michelle De La Isla.

  • Currently, there are 15 women in the Kansas Senate and 32 women in the Kansas House of Representatives, composing 28.5% of the Kansas Legislature overall.
  • 40% of Topeka’s City Council members are female.
  • The 2017 election gave the Shawnee Heights school board a female majority, a rarity for Kansas school districts.
  • The first female elected to the Kansas Senate was Patricia Solander. Elected in 1929, Patricia represented District 6
  • In 1993, Kansas led the nation in the number of women in elected office; however, by 2015 Kansas had slipped to the middle of the pack – 24th place.

A week ago yesterday, the long-awaited school finance report commissioned by GOP leaders, was unveiled. The report suggested annual spending should increase by roughly $2 billion by the year 2022.

Key points of the report by Dr. Taylor included:

  • There is significant correlation between education spending and outcomes. A 1% increase in academic performance is associated with a 5% increase in cost. There’s also a strong association between the amounts districts spend and the outcomes they achieve, at nearly a one-to-one ratio. With all other things equal, districts that spent more had better student performance.
  • Kansas schools are already highly efficient in spending. Therefore, cutting resources didn’t improve efficiency, but simply reduced effectiveness. Kansas schools were found to be already highly efficient, especially when compared against those across the country.
  • Education data collected by KSDE is among the best in the country. Kansas was one of only ten states implementing at least 9 out of 10 actions to ensure effective data use.
  • Dr. Taylor’s conclusions mirror the results of the previous legislative cost studies. Adjusted for inflation, reports in 2002 and 2006 called for $1.7 billion in new funding; Dr. Taylor’s report calls for $1.78 billion to $2.06 billion.
  • Dr. Taylor recommended making ongoing and incremental investments over a period of 3-5 years, not just a one-time investment. She also recommended that any investment in K-12 education be tied to the CPI to adjust for inflation.

Cigarette tax – reasons why there should be an increase in the sales tax:

  • Kansas tobacco users cost all Kansans through increased health care expenditures: annual health care expenditures total over $1 billion, Medicaid nearly $200 million.
  • Adjusting the price by $1.50 per pack could not only bring in new revenue, but it would provide deterrent and prevention opportunities. With a tax increase, it’s estimated that nearly 27,000 youth under the age of 18 will not become adult smokers and nearly 25,000 adult smokers will quit. Also, if a portion of the nearly $80 million in projected revenue was used for tobacco control and prevention, those most impact by the increases would receive the assistance necessary to quit.
  • Health savings over a 5-year period are predicted to top $20 million due to fewer smoking-caused lung cancer cases, heart attacks and strokes; and fewer smoking-affected pregnancies & births.

We have 2 more weeks in the regular session; April 6 should be our last date before adjournment. These next two weeks are critical for us to come up with a School Finance bill. If not, we won’t meet the Court’s timeline, and we will be setting ourselves up for a special session.