"I will tell the people what's going on at the statehouse. I'm going to treat the capitol as a borderline crime scene. ... If businesses don't have to pay taxes, the burden should not be on those trying to feed themselves." - The Valley Falls Vindicator & Oskaloosa Independent, March 3, 2016.

Across Kansas the top 1% are looting and on-the-loose, pitting us against each other. Communities in Jefferson County need to democratically prepare themselves for food and energy autonomy.

- MICHAEL CADDELL, Publisher

Friday, March 3, 2017

SCHOOL FUNDING UPDATE: Ann Mah's Newsletter, March 3, 2017

    
Neighborhood News from Ann Mah
Dear Michael Caddell, 
The Kansas Supreme Court issued its decision in the Gannon case regarding K12 school funding in Kansas.  Details follow.
In This Issue
Quick Links
A little background
This lawsuit was brought by citizens against the State of Kansas claiming that the level of school funding was not constitutional. It is the job of the Legislature to fund schools.  When people think the State is acting in an unconstitutional manner, they go to court to get a ruling. That is the job of the courts.

There were two aspects to this case - equity and adequacy. Equity means that the amount of property taxes school district patrons must pay should be about the same around the state.  The Kansas Supreme Court ruled there should be a more "equal effort" statewide and the Legislature addressed that already. 

The parents/schools suing the state said that there was an inadequate amount of funding. In other words, the amount being spent was not enough to meet the state's educational goals. They claimed that whole groups of students were being left behind. The Supreme Court agreed today. 
The bottom line
The Supreme Court ruled that the block grants put in place by the Legislature in 2015 are unconstitutional. They did not set an amount of money that had to be added. They told the legislature to come up with a constitutional funding formula by June 30. The legislature has to fix the adequacy issue and be sure that equity is still covered as well. If the legislature fails to act, the Supreme Court could take further action, including closing schools until the formula is fixed. 
Items of interest

Here are some statements from the ruling I found interesting:
  • In determining "how much is enough" to spend, the Court said that "the adequacy requirement is met when the public education financing system provided by the legislature for grades K-12 - through structure and implementation - is reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed the standards set out in Rose and presently codified" in state law.
  • The Court looked at both the "inputs" (money put in) and "outputs" (results). The Court said that "total funding" was not a measure of adequacy. The Justices also said that many funding sources could be considered toward accomplishing adequacy, but the bottom line was that Rose standards had to be met.
  • What is Rose? The Rose capacities are a set of standards that came out of another school funding case in Kentucky. The Court said if students could meet those standards, then we had funded enough. (See below for details)
  • Even though the state ranks high on national tests, state tests show we are leaving too many students behind. The court cited that one-fourth of all its public school K-12 students fall behind in basic reading and math and harder-to-educate students even more. Nearly one-half of African-American students and one-third of Hispanic students are not proficient in reading and math. More than one-third of students on free and reduced lunches are not proficient in reading and math. Only 26% of Kansas high school graduates met the ACT benchmarks in all four areas it tests.
  • Money matters. The Court said that "student performance reflected in this data is related to funding levels". The best results were seen when the funding was increased. The cuts to funding during the national recession hurt schools and outcomes. 
  • The Court noted that to meet the Rose standards, things like extracurricular activities, the arts, librarians, speech therapists, vocational training, technology, coaches, counselors, etc., were important and that these things had been cut out due to inadequate funding.
  • The test the Court set out for adequacy was a minimal level. The legislature could decide to fund at higher levels if it wants.
  • The State argued that the Court should stay out of this issue because school funding was a "political" issue. The Court disagreed.
If you want to read the order, go to: Gannon order March 2017
What are we to fund?

The Rose capacities or Rose standards came out of a court case in Kentucky. The Kansas Court said if students could do the following, then we had adequate funding:

  • Sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization;
  • Sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the students to make informed choices;
  • Sufficient understanding of governmental processes to enable the students to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state, and nation;
  • Sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her mental and physical wellness;
  • Sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage;
  • Sufficient training or preparation for advanced training in either academic or vocational fields so as to enable each child to choose and pursue life work intelligently; and
  • Sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states, in academics or in the job market.
The Legislature is to provide enough to fund all these things and the State Board of Education is to design subjects and areas of instruction to achieve these standards. The good news is that I believe the State Board of Education's KansansCan vision is right in line with where we need to go. Now we need the money to get there.
What's next? What will it cost?
The House K12 Education Budget committee has held hearings on a number of proposed funding formulas. The Senate has held no hearings I'm aware of to consider a formula. Both bodies will be at work next week to understand this order and hopefully come up with a constitutional funding formula.

The cost depends on the formula chosen and whether the legislature chooses to address just the students who are falling behind or all the aspects the Court pointed out.  I've heard estimates from $375 million to over $500 million. Property taxes are the most likely target for a fix, particularly raising the current 20 mill levy for schools. More to follow!

Community Calendar
If you have community events coming up, let me know.  This email goes to nearly 3000 homes in Shawnee, Osage, and Douglas counties. I'd love to help you get the word out!  Just remember to send your activities ahead of time.     
  • Saturday, March 4: Potato Soup/Chili Supper at the Clinton Presbyterian Church. Cornbread and desserts. Free will donations accepted. 4-7 pm.
  • Saturday, March 4: Free children's theater workshop at Topeka Civic Theater sponsored by the Lutheran Fine Arts Council of Topeka. Children grades 2-8. Limited to 40 children. To RSVP, write to Ann Mah at annmah@att.net.
  • Saturday, March 4: Auburn Elementary School Carnival 4-7 pm
  • Saturday, March 4: Chicken Noodle Dinner at Berryton United Methodist Church from 4-7 pm. Sweet shop and silent auction
  • Thursday, March 9: Jefferson Co. Democrats meet at the county courthouse at 6 pm. For information call Larry Bigham at 785-246-3736.
  • Friday, March 10: Heights of Learning chili feed and auction fundraiser at Shawnee Heights United Methodist Church. 4-7 pm To go orders available. Free will donations accepted.
  • Saturday, March 11: Scranton Lions Club Potato Bar/Soup Dinner from 5-7:30 pm at the Scranton Hulsopple Community Center. Free will donations accepted.
  • Saturday, March 11: Benefit concert for Team Blake (a two-year old battling Leukemia) at Berryton United Methodist Church. Terry and Melissa Wright will sing 50's and 60's music starting at 5 pm. Love offering will be taken. Also a silent auction and concessions.
  • Tuesday, March 14: Pre-St. Patrick's Day party sponsored by the Auburn Lions Club at the Auburn Civic Center. 5:30-7:30. Reservations required by March 8. Traditional Irish meal. For information call 256-7274.
  • Sunday, March 19: St. Patrick's Feast Dinner at the Scranton Catholic Church from 11 am to 1:30 pm. Turkey or ham and all the trimmings. $9 for adults; $5 for ages 6-12; under 5 free.
  • Saturday, March 25: Auburn Lions Club scrapbooking event. 9 am to 9 pm at the Auburn Civic Center. Registration fee $40. Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided. Vendors. Door prizes. For details contact Mary Adkins at mary-catkeeper@gmail.com or at 256-7274.
  • Saturday, March 25: Pancake and sausage breakfast at the Carbondale ELM Community Building. Free will donations to benefit the Carbondale Lions Club community projects.
  • Wednesday, March 29: Community dinner at Berryton United Methodist Church from 5-7 pm. Meatloaf, cheesy potatoes, vegetable, salad and dessert. Free will donation.
  • Saturday, April 1: Safe Boating Class by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary at the Perry Community Building, 609  Elm St. Will cover all needed topics for those 12-16 or adult wanting boating education. Cost is $5 per student. 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Bring your own lunch. Call the marina office to register at 785-783-4927 ext 209
  • Saturday, April 15: Museum and grounds clean-up at the Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum
     
ONGOING EVENTS:
  • NEW! Swap meet at Premier Farm & Home last Saturday of the month from March to October from 7 am to noon. 900 SW University Blvd (across from Forbes Field). No fee to set up.  No goats. 
  • Kansas Prairie Pickers meet to jam the fourth Sunday of each month from 1 to 5 pmat the Auburn Community Center. Free music. No jam in December. 
  • Storytime at the Auburn Community Library starts up for the fall again on Sept. 8 and continues on Thursdays from 6:30-7:30 pm.
  • CARE meets monthly on the second Thursday at the KNEA building, second floor, at 2 pm. For retired teachers or Kansans interested in advocating for education. For info: Larry Brayton at larrydene@cox.net
  • Enjoy BUNCO at the Carbondale Community Building once a month on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.  Call 785-836-7478 for details about dates, prizes, treats, etc. 
  • The Berryton Pickers are at Berryton Baptist Church the first Saturday of the month from 7 to 9 pm.  Bring snacks and have some fun!
  • Country and ballroom dancing at Croco Hall on Thursday nights from 6 to 9 pm.  For information call Edwina Hamersky at 379-9538.
  •  First Saturday of the month community breakfast buffet at Shawnee Heights United Methodist Church.  7:30 to 10 am.  Free will offering.
 
Sincerely,
  
Ann Mah