Greetings. I start this update to you with some bad news for our kids who are out enjoying swimming pools, ball fields, and snow cones and some good news for parents; our schools will open on time this fall.
On Thursday last week we returned to Topeka to address the mandate that we ensure our schools were constitutionally funded. As I wrote to you in an earlier update this fix was about equity and ensuring that school children received similar educational opportunities without regard to the relative property values of the land in their school district.
When we arrived in Topeka some in leadership had developed a plan that was offered on a take it or leave it basis. That plan would have taken $13 million from our state’s classrooms and very likely would not have been constitutional. I was glad to be able to work with a group of Republican legislators in the House and the Senate to develop an alternative plan that did not take money from our classrooms.
We worked with budget committee leadership and applied pressure to help bring the parties back to the table to design a new plan. The plan that ultimately passed was the result of that effort. Hard work by budget committee leadership, school district leaders and legislators from both parties eventually led to a much better product. Exactly the way our system is supposed to work.
That better bill passed the House 116-6 and the Senate 38-1. These totals show the broad based appeal of this legislation. Parties to the school finance case have agreed that the bill that passed does resolve the equity problems in our state’s school finance system, and this part of the lawsuit will be over.
Under the plan that I helped negotiate, classroom funding will be protected for every school district in our area, and we will see a reduction in our local property tax levy as the state returns to true equalization in school funding. This benefits all of us while causing no harm to our school children.
This is a perfect example of what has been missing for too long in Topeka: Kansas legislators working together to develop a Kansas solution. Our process works best when everybody comes committed to their principles but willing to be pragmatic and work together for the common good.
I look forward to returning to Topeka in January and am hopeful we can continue working in this way to resolve some large challenges that still remain. This includes addressing the remainder of the school finance case and ensuring we find real revenue reform so we can provide what our state needs under sound fiscal principles. I thank you for the chance to serve you and welcome your calls or emails to 785-242-6400 or [email protected] Have a great summer. School will be back in session soon.
- 59th District Representative Blaine Finch