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Kansas Bioscience Authority Fetches Less Than Expected; School Districts Will Lose Funding


In a budget year that remains challenging for many school districts in Kansas, 34 districts got some bad news Friday afternoon.

The state sold the investment portfolio of the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA) for $14 million. That's far below the $25 million it was estimated to generate. 

The KBA's sale was part of  a complicated deal to fix school inequity in the state. Money over $25 million was to be used to help fund that settlement, approved by the state Supreme Court after a special legislative session in July.

But since the sale price is lower than expected, the state now will use money from an extraordinary needs fund, set up to help school districts who may have had a spike in enrollment or a decrease in property values.

All it means to Basehor-Linwood Superintendent David Howard is that he'll have to move money out of his capital budget and reserve fund to make ends meet. “So at some point your capital projects do suffer. So roofs, parking lots, HVAC, those things don’t get replaced on a timely scheduled like they normally would.”

Howard says no programs will be cut or staff laid off this year. Over the last two years, he says, the district has grown by 170 students, adding seven teachers and two bus routes. That's why he needed the $437,102 in extraordinary needs money. “You hear about cash balances? That’s why we have them.”

The Kansas State Board of Education approved $7.2 million in extraordinary needs funding for 34 school districts across the state. None of those districts will get that extra money.

In-coming House Speaker Ron Ryckman from Olathe brokered the deal that settled the equity portion of the ongoing school funding lawsuit. He knew right away Friday that some school districts were going to take a hit.

“The offer was lower than the estimates earlier in the spring. But I think we had a good process, a fair process. I guess the market corrected itself,” Ryckman says.

The KBA will still generate some more money. The state still needs to sell its buildings and land. But it appears nobody believes now the total KBA assets will sell for more than $25 million.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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