June 13, 2024

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Superintendent Org Opposes SMSD’s School Funding Solution

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The Kansas School Superintendents Association took the unprecedented step of opposing a school financing solution proposed by Shawnee Mission School District superintendent Jim Hinson.

Hinson met with lawmakers last week to detail recommendations for a school funding formula that addresses adequacy.

“I have no interest in saying we want to sponsor a bill,” Hinson said during a press conference last week. “I do have an interest in what ifs and the underachieving 25 percent of students.”

Hinson proposed using the amount the top performing schools in Kansas spend as a benchmark for base state aid per pupil. He said his proposal would require additional state money for schools and give local school boards flexibility.

A Kansas Supreme Court decision requires state lawmakers to adopt a school financing formula that adequately calculates school funding. The Kansas School Superintendents Association (KSSA) said in a release the organization doesn’t believe Hinson’s recommendations meet that standard.

“KSSA opposes this plan,” its release reads. “Based on information shared at this time, the plan does not align to funding framework that the KSSA board of directors approved last fall.”

Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute President, said KSSA’s board of directors school funding framework is not relevant unless dollar amounts in a new formula can be calculated to show adequacy.

“You have to start from scratch,” Trabert said. “Nothing about the old formula meets the Court’s test of adequacy.”

KSSA’s 2017 legislative platform seeks a school financing formula based on individual student needs, and one that meets a Kansas constitutional requirement that locally elected school boards operate public schools.

The KSSA release worries Hinson’s plan would create an unfair tax burden for property poor districts. The organization believes the Hinson recommendations would not meet the Supreme Court’s equity and adequacy tests.

House lawmakers heard testimony on several pieces of legislation that reinstate a version of the old school funding formula. Trabert says none of the funding levels in the old formula are based on reasonable calculations, and that’s what the most recent Court decision requires.

“Funding was basically what can we all agree on,” Trabert said. “There was never even a consideration of improving outcomes.”

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