December 7, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Kansas Wrestles with School Centralization

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Kansas has 286 school districts. The state is ultimately responsible for funding all of them.

The Kansas legislature is wrestling with an issue that tests the ideological purity of the state’s legislators. The question at hand is whether the Kansas Department of Administration should create a statewide buying pool for the state’s 286 school districts at least for food, fuel and information technology equipment.

For those keen on balancing the state budget, the proposal has obvious merit. For those who believe in local control, House Bill 2143 threatens their independence. Historically, the Republicans who control both Kansas houses believe in both.

Given the state’s responsibility for funding these schools, Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, came down on the side of saving money.

“Spending more than necessary to acquire the same quality product or service, regardless of the rationale, is a conscious decision to make less money available for Instruction or to require unnecessary taxation on citizens,” said Trabert. “And since most school funding comes from citizens outside each district, expecting citizens to pay more than necessary is a form of taxation without representation.”

Complicating the matter is that the savings projected by the bill’s sponsors does not match that arrived at by the Kansas Budget Director, Shawn Sullivan who professed to being “neutral” on the budget’s passage, an unusual stance for someone in his position. Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, was compelled to ask whether Governor Sam Brownback wants the bill passed. Sullivan assured Schwab that he did.

As often in these circumstances, the committee ended the meeting by calling for more data.

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