A group of Shawnee Mission area legislators are backing a K-12 funding approach that would see the district getting $11 million in new funds next year instead of the approximately $4 million the district would see under other “fix” schemes introduced at the start of the veto session.
The bill, HB 2799, includes the so-called Trimmer and Pittman amendments that together would inject $150 million more into K-12 schools next year than in the bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jeff Colyer earlier this month.
But the approach faces a number of procedural and political hurdles. First and foremost, because it was put forward by a group of Johnson County Democrats, the bill itself is almost certainly not going to be advanced by Republican leadership for debate on the floor.
The bill’s best hope, says Rep. Brett Parker, is that its supporters can offer its language as an amendment to whatever “fix” bill is advanced by leaders in the House and the Senate.
Parker said that the bill not only would benefit Shawnee Mission schools, but its supporters believe it would reduce the likelihood that the court will rule against the state in the Gannon case, triggering a special session and the possibility of closed schools.
“I think you would start off with 40 Democratic votes right off the bat, and then you’d need to find 23 Republicans to get behind it,” Parker said of the bill’s prospects in the House.
He added that with the increase in projected revenue estimates, he hoped more Republicans would be willing to get behind the approach.
“We’ve got new revenue figures in, and this close to the court deadline, we’re saying ‘Let’s get this right and avoid having the court make us come back,'” he said.
Under the current bill as signed by Colyer, Shawnee Mission schools stand to lose access to more than $2 million in funds they could use next school year — a swing that district administrators would be “devastating” as it looks to restore staffing of counselors and accommodate scheduled pay increases for teachers. Colyer has called for the legislature to fix the $80 million drafting error.
At Monday’s board meeting, district CFO Russell Knapp outlined a number of the expense considerations the board will need to evaluate during the upcoming budget process. Step-and-column pay increases plus a 1 percent base salary increase for all pay groups would cost the district $4.5 million next year. Increasing staffing so that each elementary school has a social worker and counselor would cost $3.2 million. And staffing changes to add counselors and reduce teachers’ schedules from six classes to five classes per day at the high school level would cost around $4.1 million.
The “fix” legislation that would correct an $80 million drafting error would at least get Shawnee Mission back on the positive side of the ledger — but would not provide enough new funds for the district to take up those initiatives.