Monday, September 01, 2014

TYSON: K-12 funding front and center

By CARYN TYSON, Kansas State Senator | 3/19/2014

Several bills had legislators’ attention until the Kansas Supreme Court announced its decision in the Gannon v. Kansas appeal last week. That decision put many items on the back burner and most will not be discussed this year because the possibility of changing the school finance formula has now become one of the top priorities.

A main focus of the court ruling was inequities in funding, including capital outlay and equalization. There are many options being looked at to address issues in school funding. Currently, schools can levy up to 8 mills of property tax to fund capital outlay. Capital outlay is to be used for certain purchases such as buildings, computer equipment, and other tangible items. Local Option Budget (LOB) is also a local property tax used to fund schools. An attempt to make equal the differences across school districts in the money collected by the LOB is known as Equalization. An example of Equalization would be if 1 mill local property tax in an urban district collects $1,000,000 and in a rural district collects $400,000, and if Equalization was funded at 100 percent, the rural school district would receive $600,000 Equalization money from the State General Fund. The urban school district would not receive any money from the state. Since the Equalization funding is not at 100 percent, the amount the rural district would receive in this example is $400,000 collected from the 1 mill property tax and then an additional $468,000 in Equalization money from the State General Fund.

Several bills had legislators’ attention until the Kansas Supreme Court announced its decision in the Gannon v. Kansas appeal last week. That decision put many items on the back burner and most will not be discussed this year because the possibility of changing the school finance formula has now become one of the top priorities.

A main focus of the court ruling was inequities in funding, including capital outlay and equalization. There are many options being looked at to address issues in school funding. Currently, schools can levy up to 8 mills of property tax to fund capital outlay. Capital outlay is to be used for certain purchases such as buildings, computer equipment, and other tangible items. Local Option Budget (LOB) is also a local property tax used to fund schools. An attempt to make equal the differences across school districts in the money collected by the LOB is known as Equalization. An example of Equalization would be if 1 mill local property tax in an urban district collects $1,000,000 and in a rural district collects $400,000, and if Equalization was funded at 100 percent, the rural school district would receive $600,000 Equalization money from the State General Fund. The urban school district would not receive any money from the state. Since the Equalization funding is not at 100 percent, the amount the rural district would receive in this example is $400,000 collected from the 1 mill property tax and then an additional $468,000 in Equalization money from the State General Fund.

The Legislature is re-evaluating the way school funding has been administered in the past and how changes will impact the vast differences of school districts across the state. Finding the plan that will best serve our state will take time and patience.

Background checks

The Senate passed a few bills last week that were not related to school funding. Senate Bill (SB) 362 would require Obamacare health insurance navigators to have background checks, including fingerprinting which would have a $100 fee. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office would keep a list of licensed navigators. Proponents of the bill believe Obamacare has left consumers open to identity theft. I voted for the bill for a total of 30 yes and 10 no votes.

Student Data Privacy Act

SB 367 deals with protecting student data and is referred to as the Student Data Privacy Act. The bill provides restrictions on what data can be accessed, who can access it, and how it can be disclosed. The bill passed 39-0.

Party affiliation

There was a lively debate on House Bill (HB) 2210 on the senate floor. The bill prohibits a person from changing party affiliation after the candidate filing deadline and they could not change again until after certification of the primary results. Unaffiliated voters would retain the option to affiliate and vote during a primary election. Current law allows a person to change party affiliation 14 days before a primary election. The concern is that voters switch party affiliation to influence a party’s election. It was interesting to listen to the debate as proponents and opponents defended their positions on the bill. I supported HB 2210, and it passed the Senate 27-12 and was sent to the governor to be signed into law.

Legalize raffles

The Senate also passed a resolution that would provide Kansas voters the opportunity to decide in November if a Kansas constitutional amendment should be made that would legalize raffles in Kansas for non-profit organizations. Raffles would be defined as a game of chance in which participants may purchase a ticket for an equal chance to win a prize. The resolution passed the Senate 35-0. The resolution will be sent to the House for consideration since it passed the Senate by the required two-thirds majority for a constitutional amendment. Currently, churches and other charities are asking for help as raffling of quilts and like items are now considered gambling.

 

Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, represents Franklin County and the 12th District in the Kansas Senate.

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