The current block grant system used to fund public schools in Kansas is set to sunset June 30, 2017. To prepare for the upcoming legislative session, Governor Brownback requested citizens from across the state share feedback with him about what is important to include in a school finance formula. I want to share the Core Tenants of a School Finance Formula that was drafted by our board and community. We believe that these tenants are critical to ensure quality education is accessible to all children and youth in our state.
- Funding must be tied to what is actually costs to educate students.
- Students’ educational needs vary; therefore, the funding formula must be both flexible and adequate to meet the needs of all Kansas students.
- The suitable provision of finance for educating our students is the responsibility of the state, and should not be based on the property wealth of a community. Equitable funding, derived from similar tax effort across all communities in Kansas, is essential.
- Any formula must meet constitutional requirements for equity and adequacy. The equity requirements of the constitution require that local dollars be equalized across the state, so that children have equal educational opportunity with similar tax effort. Attention is needed to insure local dollars are appropriately equalized.
- Funding for early childhood programs is critical to ensure all children enter Kindergarten prepared.
- Every Kansas student must have access to quality education which prepares them for college and careers in a global society.
- The formula should recognize local control and provide funding of educational services; in addition, the Legislature and school districts need budgeting predictability.
- Any funding formula that is both efficient and effective must directly tie funding to school districts to what it actually costs to educate students, as the previous formula did. As such, the previous formula was not deficient. Rather, it was not sufficiently funded, and for any new funding formula to be effective, it must be adequately funded.
- Any new formula needs to provide a mechanism to recognize increasing costs. One means to do this is through a direct connection to increases in the Consumer Price Index.
- Public funds should not be used to fund, or provide vouchers or tax credits for funding private schools.
As we enter the legislative session, I will be keeping in mind that quality public education is the backbone of what it means to be an American. I will also be reminding myself that “It’s Up to Us” to ensure that all children have access to excellent teachers and quality schools.