Yesterday, the Kansas School Superintendents’ Association published their legislative positions for the 2011-2012 school year.
Unanimously, the superintendents chose to support the following:
- Finance — It is a function of the state of Kansas to equitably finance the public schools at a level equal to or greater than the current law.
- Personnel — We support protection for teacher employment, but not a lifetime guarantee.
- Retirement — In order to allow school districts to attract and employ high quality employees, a long term, sustained commitment needs to be made by KPERS [Kansas Public Employees Retirement System].
- State Revenue/Tax Reform — Available revenues should be distributed equitably across state agencies. Equitable means fair.
- State Revenue/Tax Reform — The 20 mill levy statewide for education should be maintained.
- State Revenue/Tax Reform — The 1% sales tax increase should be maintained past 2013.
- State Revenue/Tax Reform — Tax reform should not adversely impact service for citizens of Kansas including funding for education, safety, health, law enforcement and infrastructure.
School finance, in particular, has been a hot topic in Kansas over the past few years. Last spring, a federal judge in Kansas City, Kan., ruled against a group of parents who sued the state asking for the right to raise more funds than the state allowed for the Shawnee Mission School District. U.S. District Judge John Lungstram dismissed Petrella v. Brownback before it could be heard in court, saying the parents in the case did not have the standing to sue.
In another case filed last fall, 32 students in four school districts — including Kansas City, Kan., in the metropolitan area — have filed a class action lawsuit against the state. Gannon v. State of Kansas claims that education budget cuts during the recession violate citizens’ rights under the Kansas constitution to a free and equal public education. The four districts filing are part of a larger group — Schools for Fair Funding — comprising 63 schools statewide.
Metropolitan-area districts that have joined Schools for Fair Funding include Basehor-Linwood, Bonner Springs, Gardner-Edgerton, Kansas City and Turner.
The four districts suing Kansas in the class action suit are Dodge City USD 443, Hutchinson USD 308, Kansas City USD 500 and Wichita USD 259.
Education spending is one of the largest budget items in the state, accounting for 24 percent of expenditures last year. Spending on public schools will likely be a leading issue when the Kansas legislature starts its next session in January.
The Council of Superintendents, which approved these legislative positions, serves as a liaison between the Kansas State Department of Education and the public schools. The organization met Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the Kansas State Department of Education in Topeka.
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