January 20, 2012

 

Aurand: School Finance Reform May Take Multiple Sessions
by Peter Hancock | Kansas Education Policy Report

(Jan. 19, 2012) The chairman of the House Education Committee said today it would be “very difficult” to pass Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed overhaul of the state school finance system in one session.

“I don’t want to place any bets, but it would be quite an achievement to get it done in one year,” said Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Courtland).

Speaking with reporters after a committee hearing on other matters today, Aurand said the governor’s plan has not yet gained widespread public support and that many people are still nervous about the long-term impact it would have.

“Anything that has that big of a change, people are nervous,” Aurand said. “I think until they see the actual final plan – because I’ve heard things I know have evolved over time – until the final plan is actually written and we see how it affects districts, we have a good idea but a lot of people are nervous.”

Aurand said he expects to see a bill draft of the plan by the middle of next week. He also indicated there are still negotiations going on between the House and Senate over the procedure for dealing with the bill. That could include deciding whether to run the bill through both chambers simultaneously and whether it should be handled by the education or budget committees, or both.

Earlier, Senate Education Committee chairwoman Jean Schodorf (R-Wichita) expressed similar skepticism but said she too needed to see the actual bill before making a final judgment.

Schodorf’s district lies mostly within Wichita USD 259, the state’s largest school district and one with a high proportion of low-income, minority and at-risk students. She said people there are concerned about Brownback’s proposal to eliminate the at-risk weighting factor which increases the district’s Base State Aid Per-Pupil under the current formula. Also, as a large district, it would fall under the “hold harmless” provision, meaning it would receive no net increase in state funding under Brownback’s plan.

Aurand, by contrast, represents a largely rural area with 11 relatively small districts that would see funding increase under the governor’s plan. Still, concerns have been raised in those areas about the governor’s plan to eliminate equalization aid for capital improvements and bond payments.

 

For more information on the Kansas Education Policy Report, go to www.ksedpolicy.com.