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Brownback Looking For Input On Kansas School Funding

Stephen Koranda
Gov. Sam Brownback announcing his request for public input on education funding. Behind him is Kansas State Board of Education Chairman Jim McNiece.

Gov. Sam Brownback announced Wednesday that he has reached out to Kansas school districts, boards of education and various education associations asking for input on the state's school funding system.

Brownback says he plans to use the input to create a proposal for a new school funding formula that would be given to lawmakers as they work to replace the state's block grant funding system, which expires next year. The governor said he does not intend to extend the block grant, which was always meant to be a temporary measure to replace an outdated funding formula.

“It is time for us to work together to develop a school funding system that works for Kansas students, their parents and educators," Brownback said at a press conference Wednesday. "I look forward to hearing from educators, parents, administrators and stakeholders from across the state. The time for school finance reform is now."

Brownback says this is the second step in a plan to prepare Kansas to succeed, but did not elaborate further. The first step was a series of meetings held across the state to find out what Kansans want in their schools.

Jim McNiece, chairman of the state board of education, says the cost to fund those ideas has not been discussed.

"Our job as part of our constitutional requirement is to say, 'This is what and where we want to go as a state. Legislature, now it's your job to find the money and build a formula,'" McNiece said.

Marcus Baltzell is with the Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. He says they’re encouraged by the spirit of collaboration, but says he wonders why it took so long to reach this step.

“We’ve been calling for teachers and educators to be included for a long time now," Balztell said. "For more than 2,000 days into this administration, that hasn’t happened."

The Associated Press reports that a group of Kansas school administrators has been working for months on a plan and unveiled its outlines at a forum Wednesday. Their proposal would strip local school districts of their taxing powers and set a single statewide property tax for schools.

Brownback will be taking suggestions until the end of November at the email address StudentsFirst@ks.gov.


Follow Abigail Beckman on Twitter @AbigailKMUW.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Stephen Koranda is the managing editor of the Kansas News Service, based at KCUR. He has nearly 20 years of experience in public media as a reporter and editor.