January 30, 2020
There are a couple of bills to keep your eye on in the state legislature that could have an impact on the funding our school district receives from the state.
HB2465 Expansion of Tax Credit Scholarship
Bill HB2465, a “school choice” tax credit scholarship bill, which had a hearing in the House K-12 Education Committee on January 30, is opposed by the Shawnee Mission School District, the Kansas PTA, and multiple education advocacy groups. For more details on their opposition, read SMSD and Kansas PTA’s official written testimony.
In short, this bill would expand the Kansas Hope Scholarship Act which was passed (despite opposition) in 2014. This Act allows public tax dollars to be diverted via tax credits to non-public schools for eligible students who choose to attend a private school. Currently, to qualify a student must be eligible for free lunch and attend a low performing elementary school. Bill HB2465 expands the Act to include children eligible for reduced-priced lunch and removes the low performing elementary school requirement, meaning kids from any school can take advantage of the scholarship, diverting even more public tax dollars to non-public schools.
The three main reasons for opposition to this bill are:
SB271 At-Risk High Density Sunset
Bill SB271 has a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, February 4. Passage of this bill is important as it impacts around 70 districts statewide and brings about $1 million annually to SMSD alone.
For some background, both at-risk funding and at-risk high density funding are part of the school finance formula. However, the high density piece is set to sunset (be removed from the formula) this year, unless our state legislators takes action.
The amount of at-risk funding a school district receives is based on the number of students qualifying for free lunch. Even though not all students receiving free lunch are at risk, this has been found to be a pretty good way to determine which schools need this additional funding. Note that there is a different set of criteria for identifying at-risk students (e.g. below grade level, chronic absenteeism, trauma in the family, etc.).
At-risk high density funding refers to additional funds that some schools receive if there are 50% more kids in that building that receive free lunch. These schools need more resources (e.g. social workers, etc.) than other schools in their district. These additional funds are critical to our district and are what we stand to lose if SB271 does not pass.
Thanks for staying engaged!
SMAC PTA Legislative Coordinator