April is here and school finance and taxes are the hot topics in Topeka
The month of April has moved in and we are in the final two months of the school year. In looking at the calendar and list of activities that will occur before the end of the year, the next several weeks will pass by quickly. All of the spring sports seasons are up and running and when you add to that the prom season and music contests and concerts, as student's life becomes very jammed packed. It is during this time that students and parents need to stay on top of school work. It is easy for a student to get distracted by outside events and some begin to count down the days till the end of school and lose sight of all the work that has to be done prior to summer break. As always, if you have concerns about your student, go ahead and contact their teacher to make sure things are going as planned.
Things have heated up in Topeka with the budget hole that must be filled one way or another. The other looming issue is the need for a new school finance package. The state is looking at a very large budget deficit over the next few years. Trying to find enough revenue to finish out the current budget year is a task all in its own, but the state is on track to have large budget deficits over the next two budget years unless some changes are made. There are many proposals on the table, but looking to change tax breaks on LLCs, raising some taxes and cutting others are just a few of the things they are contemplating at this time. Hopefully some type of solution will be found by the end of the session.
On the school finance issue - if you remember, two years ago the state legislature scrapped the old school finance system and placed a "Block grant" system in its place for 2 years. During that time, they were supposed to be working on a new finance package. However, nothing has been decided at this point and they are trying to piece together a package that will replace the block grant system and will satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court which ruled that more money needed to be spent on education. There is a package that has been discussed and changed several times, but nothing has come to a vote yet. Conway Springs Schools have been projected to both gain money and lose money as the work continues. We simply will have to wait and see what does or does not get passed.
If the legislature is unable to come up with new revenues and a school finance package that satisfies the courts before the end of the session, the courts have said they will determine the school funding unconstitutional and who knows what that means. Over the past two years, we have looked at a threat that schools may not be allowed to open if the courts determined funding to be unconstitutional. I am not sure that they would move forward with that, but at this point, every option is on the table. If the legislature can come up with a package by the first part of June and the courts agree with the package then nothing will change and we can move forward. My hope is that the legislature is able to come to an agreement on a budget package and a school finance package and we can simply move forward and not have to worry about any threat of shutting down schools. I will keep everyone posted on any big news out of Topeka. This is a very scary time for school leaders as we are trying to plan for next year and still are not sure what the funding will be when we open the doors in August. Kind of a "Hurry up and wait" scenario at this point.