Proposed plan to fund public education could significantly impact property taxes

TOPEKA, Kan, (KSNT) – A proposed formula developed by the Kansas Association of School Boards was presented at a conference in Topeka made up of over 100 education leaders.

The proposed formula would replace local property taxes with a state wide tax while school boards would still have some control of their funds. Local school boards would not set property tax rates. Instead, they would be set by the state. A departure from how schools are normally paid for in Kansas.

Lawmakers would decide whether the money should come from property taxes or general state aid.

Wichita Public School’s Former Chief Financial Officer Jim Freeman, who presented the plan, argues that this would stop local battles over property taxes. But some educators expressed concerns that this may eliminate school district’s ability to sue the state.

Meanwhile, Governor Sam Brownback held a conference of his own at the statehouse and he’s reaching out to the public and different organizations for ideas on school funding.

“It’s time for us to work together to develop a school funding system that works for students, their parents, and educators,” he said.

He’s urging groups and individuals to email their comments or proposals. He also sent a letter to more than 50 school districts and organizations.

He didn’t want to comment on the proposed formula set by the Kansas Association of School Boards but he did say that it was a step in the right direction.

“This is putting pen to paper on how these things should actually happen and so the idea of that being floated (is) good.”

State Board of Education Chairman Jim MacNiece said that now is the time to have a proper conversation about funding.

“We could go back and say, ‘Why didn’t we talk about this a year ago?’ Well, a year ago, we probably weren’t ready to have this conversation. We’re ready today.”

Lawmakers and educators are also waiting for the Kansas Supreme Court to weigh in on how much money should be given to schools.

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