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Olathe Schools Will Spend Millions More In Next School Year

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

The Olathe School Board meeting Thursday night was decidely more upbeat than about this time two years ago. At that time,the board was facing a $2 million deficit and had laid off 80 people to fill budget hole.

But last night, the board heard the district will probably be able to spend about $14.5 million more in the 2017-2018 school under the school funding plan passed this week by the Kansas Legislature.

About $9.5 million of that will come from increased state aid. The rest will be raised locally. Some of that will come from a special levy the district can use to help pay for the new Olathe West High School that opens in August.

The school funding package now on Gov. Sam Brownback's desk adds $184 million in new funding next year and $100 million more the year after that. So far, nobody knows if the governor will sign the plan or veto it.

Acting Superintendent Patricia All told the board while next year's funding is solid, year two and beyond is shaky. "The base state aid is not enough to do what you to do going forward," All says. "It's not the plan the schools need for the long term."

The board also discussed what might happen should the state Supreme Court find the school funding legislation unconstitutional. Many lawmakers believe the funding is short of what the court will accept. The high court has threatened to shut down public education June 30 if it finds lawmakers put too little money into the plan to adequately fund education in Kansas.

Time is running short for the justices to read briefs, hold oral arguments and render a judgment.

No special shut down plan was shared with the board. Staff told them even if schools are closed, the district may be able to pay some essential employees and bills.

If schools are closed, the problem will be handed off to John Allison who takes over as superintendent July 1. Allison was part of the board workshop Thursday night.

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

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