What Shawnee Mission residents should watch for when the legislature takes up fixes to K-12 funding bill next week

Jay Senter - April 18, 2018 10:15 am
The legislature returns for its veto session April 26.

No school district in the state has as much at stake as Shawnee Mission when the legislature reconvenes next week for its veto session and is expected to take up a fix to the $500 million K-12 funding bill passed late at night earlier this month.

In addition to a drafting error that led to $80 million less than intended being injected into Kansas public schools, the inclusion of a provision that would change the way districts calculate how much local money they can use on special education expenses would hit Shawnee Mission much harder than any district in the state.

Instead of seeing an additional $4.3 million in funding next year as it had expected, Shawnee Mission is facing the loss of $2 million in the bill as currently written.

That’s a negative swing of $6,351,946 in funds available to Shawnee Mission schools next year.

With the deadline for a response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Gannon case looming, Gov. Jeff Colyer on Tuesday morning signed the bill as passed by the legislature April 8 — a move that ensures the state will have something to present to the court if things fall apart during the veto session. But Colyer made clear he wants to see the $80 million drafting error fixed.

“It’s important that we get this right,” Colyer said.

The passage of a trailer bill to fix the K-12 funding legislation is not a foregone conclusion, however.

Here’s what we’ll be watching for when lawmakers return to Topeka next Thursday.

What will Jim Denning do?

Jim Denning (left) at a candidate forum during the 2016 election cycle.

To get a fix through during the veto session, leaders in the House will need at least the tacit willingness of Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning of Overland Park to agree to a conference committee and to bring a trailer bill up for another vote.

But Denning was strongly resistant to the funding levels in the package that was passed April 8, saying they were not affordable. And he may be even more resistant when the veto session begins.

There are members of the Shawnee Mission delegation who have concerns that the negative backlash Denning has received since the regular session adjourned (Steve Rose, for example, penned a sharp critique of Denning over the weekend and said he wished he hadn’t supported Denning’s bid for re-election) may make Denning even less likely to work on fixes to the $500 million plan than to the original.

Consensus revenue estimates might change the landscape

Protestors urged the legislature to pass a school funding fix outside the capitol last year.

The state’s division of budget on Friday will unveil is annual consensus revenue estimates, giving projections of how much more or less money it expects the state to take in the coming fiscal years based on recent receipts.

Last year, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group increased estimated revenues for fiscal years 2017 through 2019 by $550 million.

It’s not possible to say at this point whether there will be another adjustment upward this year. But if revenue estimates increase by hundreds of millions of dollars again, it will likely change the political calculation for a number of Democrats and moderate Republicans.

Members who voted for the $500 million plan but had concerns that it may not inject enough money into the K-12 system to meet the court’s demands may decide not to sign on to the funding levels in the original plan again if the revenue estimates show Kansas has more money at its disposal that previously believed.

That could threaten the odd coalition of House and Senate members that came together to pass the original bill.

What will a “fix” include?

Shawnee Mission will need more than the revisor’s error fixed.

Colyer has called for the the legislature to “fix the error that inadvertently decreased expenditures to schools by $80 million,” but Shawnee Mission would need more than that to see the full increases it expects for next year.

The repeal of statute 72-5144 from the bill would take away $1.8 million in operating funds Shawnee Mission raises through its local option budget (which is funded by local property taxes). No other district in the state is affected anywhere near as severely by that provision. The next closest district would lose access to around $150,000 if that repeal stands.

So Shawnee Mission area legislators will have to hope that they can convince their peers from across the state to ensure the repeal of 72-5144 is eliminated from the bill in the trailer. If not, the $4.3 million increase the district would receive under the K-12 bill “as intended” would be reduced to an effective increase of $2.5 million.

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