Katt on Kansas school funding bill: ‘Not good by any means’
By KARI BLURTON
USd 489 Superintendent Dean Katt said he believes the compromise bill now awaiting Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature will hurt the district more than it helps.
“Overall, financially, it is not good,” Katt said. “We didn’t receive money for capital outlay (or) state aid. We gained a bit for the local option budget mill levy, but most everything else is cuts.”
Katt added the final iteration of the bill was not as bad as some previous versions — but it’s “not good by any means.”
There is an increase of $14 per student in the base state aid and state funding for the local option budget, but that is countered by money the Hays district will lose for some at-risk students. The proposal adds $129 million in total state aid to help fund poorer school districts, but also contained policy changes that have raised alarms in the educational community. Most notably, it does away with due process, also known as tenure, that requires the decision to terminate a non-probationary teacher to be justifiable to a third party.
Hays USD 489 already was grappling with a projected $1.3 million shortfall in the upcoming budget, and recently informed some staff their contracts would not be renewed for the 2014-15 school year. In an official statement released by the district Tuesday, is was made public those cuts, if approved by the board of education, would affect 16 certified staff, an equivalent of 13 full-time employees. The classified staff also is expected to decrease in size, and three positions already have been cut through the process of attrition.
The compromise was drafted Sunday in response to a Kansas Supreme Court decision ruling Kansas educational funding fell short of constitutional requirements.
Katt said he is discouraged Kansas lawmakers didn’t have “a little more interest and spirited conversation during the regular session,” instead of waiting until until the last weekend to “throw everything together and think they are doing justice to anything.”
The only revenue option, the district said in the release today, is to increase the amount of taxes it levies via the local option budget. The new legislation would allow the district to increase that levy from 30 percent to 33 percent, which would generate approximately $650,000 in new revenue. Such a move would require approval by voters via a mail-in ballot.
“The biggest shock was the teacher tenure,” Katt said. “That was a big surprise. The issue had never came up with any Legislature — no hearings on it or anything.”