State unclear about equity for schools

This is the first full week after turnaround. Some committees have begun to seriously look at Senate bills and some committees are finished, or nearly finished with their work for the session. Most of the budget subcommittees are finished and may not meet again this session.

I understand the Educa?tion budget committee chair has introduced a bill in Appropriations committee to sweep carryover funds from schools into the state general fund. I have not seen the bill, as it is not yet drafted, but if that were done it could leave several schools without funds if the state should default on payments.

People keep asking, and rightly so, where the state is heading concerning equity in schools and whether the revenue issues will ever be ironed out. The revenue could be fixed if the Legislature has the will to do so, but apparently the will and desire of leadership to fix the problem is not there.

As for the schools, discussion is apparently going on with the range of options from ignoring the court decision, to reinstating the former funding formula, to writing a new formula, and possibly some other solution.

Word is the Senate Ways and Means will introduce a bill to address that, but again it is not available. Rumor is, the bill would basically reinstate the old formula without any additional funding.

Ignoring the decision would cost no money, but it is not known yet whether the courts could actually close schools this fall if that happened. Reinstating the old formula without additional funds may not work as the Kansas City area schools would lose money and some rural areas and Wichita would gain. With more representation in urban areas, that solution may not be one that would pass. So the block grant system is generally working better for them.

The third possibility, writing a new formula, will take some time. The House and Senate Education committees met jointly several times this summer and were not able to accomplish writing a new formula. They did gather quite a bit of information, but sorting through to determine the quality of that information also takes time.

In floor action, the House passed over a bill that would expand the low-income corporate scholarship program. That may come up again soon. The House also sent a bill back to committee that restricted refugees into Kansas. There was spirited debate and things were falling apart, so the motion to re-refer was made. It is unknown if the committee will try to get that back to the House floor.

A bill allowing some contact with large cats in zoos was passed out of Ag Com?mittee this week. Because of injuries and even a death a few years ago, there is concern whether this should be allowed. Current law does not allow contact but the bill would loosen some of the restrictions.

The Legislature is continuing to work bills and there is a flurry of bills being introduced through exempt committees. Being an election year, some of these are being introduced for show so someone can claim credit for a certain bill. Election year always gets a little strange that way.

Despite publicity about them, be assured very few of these bills will go anywhere. The bills that do move will need to be watched closely as some of them are motivated by pure politics.

Rep. Don Schroeder represents District 74, which includes much of the southern half of Marion County.

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