Kansas educators blast new ‘block grant’ proposal

TOPEKA (KSNT) — School officials from all over the state gathered at the statehouse Monday to blast a plan that would change how public schools are paid for.

As the plan got its first review, lawmakers got an earful.

“It does not solve any problems, as a matter of fact it will create some problems,” said Jim Freeman, CFO of Wichita Public Schools.

Educators are increasingly concerned about the legislature’s plan to fund schools through block grants, which is Governor Sam Brownback’s plan of choice to modernize public education financing.

When the plan was introduced last week, sponsors said they had education’s support, but it’s clear Superintendents’ like Cynthia Lane of Kansas City don’t.

“We’re functioning under the 2001 levels right now and it’s 2015,” said Lane.

Supporters of reform say the current system say it’s too costly, too complicated, and a mess.

“We see hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on non-instructional spending,” said Mike O’Neal, President of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Educators say the current formula keeps schools accountable to parents, and provides for special services that would likely disappear if this new plan is enacted.

“Parents should be concerned because they want to make sure each and every child, their child and everybody else’s gets their needs met,” said Lane.

Educators are concerned with how quickly this bill is advancing, but as legislative deadlines loom, lawmakers say they must work fast to fix the flawed funding formula.

The hearing lasted most of the morning Monday, but no action has been taken yet.

Lawmakers will continue discussing the issue again Tuesday.

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