The Kansas State Finance Council, chaired by Gov. Sam Brownback and dominated by Republican legislative leaders, is playing hardball with school districts seeking extraordinary funding.
In a letter sent to all 38 school districts across the state who've applied for the additional funding, four top lawmakers asked for five ways each district has "innovated and used efficiencies to improve outcomes in the classroom."
The letter was signed by House Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell, Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita, House Appropriations Chair Ron Ryckman from Olathe and Senate Ways & Means Chair Ty Masterson from Andover.
The districts have little time to respond. The letter says the list must be in by Friday. "This information will provide valuable insight to the Finance Council as it considers you application," the letter says.
Five area school districts are seeking extra state money on top of their block grants.
Olathe applied for $458,000 to help pay for 200 additional students this year. Kansas City, Kansas has asked for $2.1 million more due to an anticipated enrollment increase of 500 students.
“We have worked extremely hard to be efficient with the resources we have, in order to reach our goal of graduating each student prepared for college and careers in a global society," says KCK Chief of Staff David Smith. "We look forward to sharing more of our work and learnings with the members of the committee.”
The Piper and Bonner Springs districts in Wyandotte County are also asking for more state aid due to enrollment increases. Piper wants an additional $239,000 and Bonner Springs is asking for $155,000.
Spring Hill in Johnson County has applied for about $618,000 more from the state.
In all the 38 districts have asked for $15 million in Extraordinary Needs money. However, there's only $12.3 million in the fund.
The Associated Press quoted Hutchinson Superintendent Shelly Kiblinger saying the letter implies the applicants aren't efficient and is "incredibly offensive" for those with increases in student numbers. State documents show Hutchinson schools are asking for an additional $461,000 to cover additional students.
When the legislature went to block grants, it held back a small portion of state aid to create the fund. Districts with a substantial increase in enrollment or a large loss in real estate valuation are eligible for the money.
The State Finance Council makes major funding decisions for the state when the Legislature is out of session. Seven of the nine members are Republicans.