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Dear Friend:
Movement on Education Funding, Regular Session Concludes
The first week of April, the Senate debated and passed Sub SB 423. It included our priorities for the next education funding formula in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s October finding in Gannon v State that last year’s formula remained underfunded per the requirements in the Kansas Constitution(Article 6). The Court split the Gannon case in two parts – equity of funding across districts so similar effort would raise similar funding (property valuations and subsequent tax revenue to districts vary widely) and adequacy of funding to achieve expected outcomes.
Measuring the Cost of Adequacy
In the last 20 years, the legislature has commissioned external reviews and studies, as well as assigned audits to the Legislative Post Audit Division (the state’s internal, non-partisan audit arm). The results of these studies tend to sit on shelves until someone needs them for the sake of an argument – or a paperweight. Another such study was ordered in December to provide a guideline for outcomes-based funding to present to the court. In short, the study showed we are far behind meeting the adequate funding goal and certainly fall short of the suitability requirement in the constitution. The details of the newest study are below.

Keep in mind, the court declared the funding formula passed in 2005 in response to Montoy v. Kansas to be constitutional, and had the legislature maintained those funding levels, the Gannon plaintiffs would not have had a reason to file another suit.

House Action & Senate Obstructionism
The House also passed an education bill (HB 2445), but Senate leadership refused to bring it up for debate and a vote. Instead, they cobbled together a tax cut bill – less than a year after the bill to restore the disastrous 2012 tax cuts had gone into effect, and only months into what seems to be a slow-but-sure economic recovery as a result! Another word for what was going on was a filibuster – an attempt to run out the clock so a finance plan would not be passed. 

Senate District 11 Resources:

The House took our bill mentioned above and replaced its contents with compromise language that included some of the Senate’s policy provisions and the House funding levels. With this move, the Senate could agree with the House’s changes, or disagree (concur or nonconcur), but the Senate could not amend the bill in this format. With less than one minute before the midnight deadline when bills would die, a motion to concur passed the Senate 21-19, I voted yes. 
Sub SB 423
This bill is far from perfect, but it is a good faith effort. Combined with the funding in last year’s plan, schools would see more than $800 million in new funding over the next five years, if accepted by the court:
  • Adds current transportation weighting practices from department practice into statute
  • Increases Special Education and teacher mentoring funding
  • I’m excited about this one – the bill creates and funds ($10 million) the Mental Health Intervention Team, a pilot project between community mental health centers and providers in Wichita, Topeka, KCK, Parsons, Garden City, Central KS Coop Schools for treatment and training in student behavioral health. 
  • Pays the fee for Kansas students to take the ACT and Workeys tests – many students cannot afford these test fees, which are the primary prerequisite for many college admissions. 
  • Expands the 4-year old at-risk program so if a district’s threshold enrollment is not met, 3-year olds can be added to fill the remaining seats.
The governor has indicated he will sign the bill and the Attorney General’s office is preparing their defense to the court which is due on April 30.
We adjourned the Regular Session shortly after this vote and everyone headed home for the April “Spring Break” while legislative staff complete the paperwork and finalize bills passed during the session. 
Unfortunately, as often happens when things are done fast and late at night, an error was found in the bill this week. This is an $80 million error which strips millions from many schools. We expect to work on a “trailer bill” to fix this error when we return to Topeka for the Veto Session on April 26. 
While at home the next few days, I will be visiting schools and community events. I hope to see you while I am home!

It is an honor to serve you in Topeka. 

Very truly yours,

John Skubal
Senator, 11th District
913-469-6641 (H)

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