Teachers unions, GOP lawmakers weigh in on block grant proposal

WICHITA, Kansas – – GOP leaders have introduced an interim solution to school funding, while they take on the bigger project of rewriting the way schools are funded in Kansas.

The announcement of a block grant proposal hasn’t been well received with teachers unions.

Some who see it as a way for the state to dodge having to put more funding into schools, as a part of the Gannon Lawsuit that was handed down last year.

“I believe this block grant idea is a way they are trying to avoid having to do that,” said Dave Kirkbride, Director South Central UniServ KNEA.

Officials with USD 259, the state’s biggest school district say the block grants would increase the amount funding cut from the district.

“We’re trading a $3 million allotment the governor made for a $7.7 million drop in our revenue for this year,” said Jim Freeman, USD 259 Chief Financial Officer.

Republican lawmakers who are supporting the proposal say block grants give school districts more flexibility to spend state dollars the way they see fit.

Sen. Michael O’Donnell says he believes block-grants will bring in new dollars for education funding.

“It brings more equity and stability to every school district and additional dollars, this plan increases school funding over the next three years by $300 million,” said Sen. O’Donnell.

Sen. O’Donnell also points to the need for block grants as a temporary solution while a new school funding formula is devised, to replace what he calls an antiquated system.

“It’s a leap ahead of where we currently are today, so this might not be the perfect answer, but it is a better answer than we are currently giving,” said Sen. O’Donnell.

Still, teachers union representatives feel it’s not the right solution in changing a formula they feel isn’t broken.

“I can’t see anyway this would give districts more flexibility, there probably going to have to reduce staff,” said Kirkbride.

KSN talked to several school superintendents this week, and all of those we talked to believe the school funding formula is not broken.

They say the funding is not being provided to support the formula and adequately fund schools.

 

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