Archive for Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Senator proposes adding funds to Brownback’s school finance plan

February 22, 2012

Topeka — A Republican senator on Monday tried to increase support for Gov. Sam Brownback’s school finance overhaul by adding $41.8 million to the plan.

State Sen. Steve Abrams of Arkansas City said his proposal would allocate the funding based on the number of students in each district who are deemed at risk of failing.

Abrams said he realized many districts — approximately half in the state — would see no funding increase under Brownback’s proposed school formula changes. Under Abrams’ plan, those districts would see some increase in the 2013-14 school year.

Abrams rolled out his proposal during the Senate Education Committee, which is working on Brownback’s school finance bill.

Chairwoman Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, said Abrams’ proposal needed more study. “I’m a little speechless about the amount,” she said. The committee will continue working on school finance Tuesday.

Other committee members noted that Abrams’ plan changed the definition of at-risk students in a way that could shortchange districts with a high percentage of low-income students.

Currently, school districts receive additional education funds for children who receive free lunch based on their families’ low income. Abrams would change that to distributing at-risk funds based on the number of students who score less than the proficient level on statewide assessments in reading and math.

In addition, under Abrams’ plan, Brownback’s proposal to eliminate state limits on local property taxes for schools would continue. Critics say that would increase the disparity between rich and poor districts and be declared unconstitutional.

“It blows the lid” on local budgets, said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka. “That’s a non-starter for me.”

Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association, said Brownback’s plan is so complex, legislators should study it further during the interim period between the end of this legislative session and the start of the 2013 session.

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