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Johnson County Superintendents: Return To Pre-Block Grant Funding Formula

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Johnson County superintendents and chamber leaders gathered Thursday to urge state lawmakers vote for a return to the pre-block grant funding formula.

Johnson County superintendents and local chambers of commerce are asking for a return to Kansas's old school funding formula and for a provision that would “hold all districts harmless.”

The Kansas Supreme Court has given lawmakers until June 30 to come up with an equitable funding formula or risk closure of the state’s schools. As it stands, Blue Valley, De Soto, Gardner-Edgerton, Olathe and Shawnee Mission will lose money under state lawmakers’ plan to equalize funding.

Tom Robinett with the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce says a temporary return to the pre-block grant funding formula would be a better solution.

“Looking at it where Johnson County residents are asked to pay more taxes to pay tax relief across the state, that’s difficult to share and justify with the patrons of our school districts,” Robinett said at a news conference Thursday.

“One of the things we have to do going forward to write a new formula in our state is to define equity and define equalization and define adequacy,” Shawnee Mission Supt. Jim Hinson said. “As you’ve heard me state previously, the big issue is not the one we’re dealing with right now.”

Rather, it’s adequacy – and that’ll have to be determined by the courts, Hinson said.

Already, the uncertainty around Kansas school funding has impacted hiring in the Blue Valley district. 

“We have applicants that we are offering contracts to that I believe in previous years would have wanted to come to Johnson County and to Blue Valley schools, that are now telling us they’re now unsure if that contract will even be valid,” Supt. Todd White said.

Spring Hill was the only Johnson County school district that did not sign a statement released Thursday urging a retrograde approach to the Supreme Court's order. Nine local chambers of commerce also joined in.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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