Concerns over school funding bill

WICHITA, Kansas – As the ink dries on the school funding bill passed late Sunday night, school administrators, lawyers and union groups are still working to figure out what it will mean to schools and students.

The bill increases aid to districts by $14 for each student and also adds more funds to some poorer districts, but those affected by the bill spent much of Monday just trying to figure out what it means.

“On the bad side, they did, starting Friday night, add some policy pieces. And that’s problematic because we weren’t able to have hearings and fully vet those policy pieces to fully understand what they mean,” said Diane Gjerstad, USD 259 Government Relations liaison.

Gjerstad says the long session in Topeka ended with a deal, but leaves a lot of questions.

“I think that’s the scary part of all this,” said Lynn Rogers, Wichita Board of Education. “It was done in the middle of the night. It was done without any vetting of the pros and cons.”

The bill gives up $73 million up front, to try to equalize funding between rich and poor schools. The rest is funded through a variety of tax breaks, changing the way local funds are calculated.

For school administrators, there is some worry about keeping the funding going in years to come, allowing districts to find and hire quality teachers.

“Having a salary schedule that is competitive, not only help us in recruiting the best but in retaining the best,” said Dr. Russell Miller, Newton Asst. Superintendent.

Multiple schools KSN talked to said they were still looking at the paperwork to figure out exactly how all this will impact the bottom line. Most said this looks to be a neutral funding solution — it doesn’t add much, but doesn’t take away much either.

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