Advocacy Statements 2016
Funding Public Education
The Kansas Constitution provides that “the legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” To achieve this citizen mandate SQE supports full state funding of the base state aid per pupil at the minimum 2009-2010 statutory level of $4,492, adjusted for inflation, until legitimate cost studies determine the actual amount required to meet the adequacy requirement of the Rose standards as set forth in the recent Gannon court decision. The funding formula that existed prior to the block grant funding established by the legislature worked because it weighed the state’s obligation to equitably fund each student’s education and recognized that local school districts have unique needs. The legislature should return to the previous formula, restore the non-proficient and part-time weightings, the change in definition of at-risk pupil, and the school facilities weighting until such time, after full public hearings and legitimate cost studies, the actual needs and costs associated with each of these factors is determined.
SQE opposes all efforts to unduly shift school funding to local taxpayers. This runs counter to our tradition of strong state investment, and sets the stage for unequal funding that will continue to hurt small, rural schools.
Special Education Funding
SQE supports the current formula for the calculation of special education funding, which is currently based on a per teacher basis. Continued state underfunding of mandated special education services forces local school districts to increase local property taxes and to divert other limited resources.
Consolidation and Consolidation Incentives
SQE strongly supports local control in any decision regarding consolidation. We oppose any legislation that overrides local control by means of limiting funding due to size or geographic location or that severely limits a quality education for all students.
SQE supports school choice in that a student with permission of the receiving district may choose to attend a school in a district in which he/she does not reside. Transportation, however, can only be provided to that student by the receiving district from the district boundary. No transportation funding, however, would be provided.
State Aid for Capital Improvement Bond Issues
SQE supports appropriate and adequate state equalization aid for capital improvement bond issues. Property tax poor districts are hard pressed to meet critical infrastructure needs without this vital state assistance.
SQE commends the legislature for its recent commitment to address the KPERS unfunded liability. A quality retirement plan is also essential to help local school districts in their efforts to attract and retain an excellent workforce. SQE supports the recent elimination of the $20,000 earnings limitation for teachers and administrators who may choose to return to work after retirement; however, it is important that the newly enacted restrictions not impose an undue burden on rural school districts when seeking to fill critical positions. We encourage the legislature to continue to review working after retirement options, in particular, the current restriction on the number of hard to fill positions listed in statute, to enable our schools to secure the essential staff we need to better serve our students.
State Support of High Quality, High-bandwidth Broadband is Critical for Education Services to Rural Schools.
The original Kan-Ed Network allowed our schools to collaborate and educate, regardless of size or zip code. In spite of the state’s discontinuation of Kan-Ed, our schools continue to require broadband support to enable our students to individually access world-class distance learning through centralized, cost-efficient administration and share limited teacher resources to compete in tomorrow’s global workforce. The Federal E-rate discounts do not cover all of the costs to provide these needed services, particularly in rural areas that are lacking in infrastructure development and effective carrier competition. Loss of state support has resulted in a cost shift to local school property tax dollars to provide these essential services. SQE urges the state to re-establish the statewide telecommunications backbone that is necessary for all of our schools to have the bandwidth they require in order to efficiently provide shared instruction and professional development through interactive distance learning.
School Board Elections and Participation
Participation in our democracy a right we hold in high regard. SQE supports the current non-partisan election of school board members as the best way to assure the public’s participation in their selection of local school leadership. We further oppose any added restrictions that would arbitrarily limit the ability of our school patrons to select their school board members.
The legislature currently places several unfunded mandates on our schools. SQE opposes the enactment of any additional unfunded mandate that would cause our schools to continue to divert funds from other necessary programs.