NEJC legislators express disappointment with prospect of starting from scratch on K-12 funding plan

Rep. Stephanie Clayton said the threat of starting from scratch on the K-12 bill could amount to “saber rattling.”

Members of the northeast Johnson County delegation to the statehouse on Friday expressed disappointment with Republican legislative leaders suggestion earlier this week that they may be looking to start from scratch on the creation of K-12 funding plan to satisfy the state’s Supreme Court.

At the annual NEJC Chamber Legislative preview, three local officials responded to the report that Speaker Ron Ryckman of Olathe and Sen. Majority Leader Jim Denning of Overland Park told Blue Valley School District Officials Monday that they didn’t believe the state could afford the additional funding to adjust for inflation the court said would bring the current formula into line with the constitution.

Sen. Barbara Bollier said the Republican majority did not want to see any additional money invested in K-12 education.

Sen. Pat Pettey, a Democrat whose district primary covers Wyandotte County but includes small sections of Overland Park and Merriam, said she was shocked to hear the report.

“It’s like, are you kidding me?” she said. “This is a time for us to be able to move ahead and put school finance litigation out of the picture. And that’s not going to happen if we start over.”

Sen. Barbara Bollier, who announced this week that she had switched parties from Republican to Democrat, said it was clear the Republican majority did not want to see additional dollars allocated to K-12 education, and that with public education accounting for more than half of the expenditures from state’s general fund, they would likely hold school finance as a major bargaining chip throughout the session.

Republican Rep. Stephanie Clayton said she was frustrated by the news as well, particularly, she said, because conservative Republicans chaired the committees that produced the plan that was ultimately approved last session.

“[I] was very disappointed to hear the Senate and House leadership talk about scrapping that education plan,” Clayton said. “There has been a great deal of work that was point into it. All voices were at the table. Most importantly, this was led by conservatives.”

But, she added, Ryckman’s and Denning’s comments may amount to “saber rattling” to gain leverage as the session begins.

“Just understand that that’s sort of what’s going on,” she said. “As you hear strange things, just remember that we will do what we always do: Which is fight forever, and then go into session in June and resolve everything at the last minute. That’s kind of how this legislature has been running.”

You can see the full event, which included Reps. Jarrod Ousley, Jerry Stogsdill and Rui Xu, as well, below: