TOPEKA — A school funding bill Gov. Jeff Colyer says he intends to sign has an $80 million error which, according to local State Senator Richard Hilderbrand, (R-Baxter Springs) would result in Southeast Kansas schools receiving a funding cut, despite an overall increase in school budgets of more than half-billion dollars over five years.
According to Hilderbrand in a Facebook post, the Kansas House of Representatives used the controversial “gut and go” procedure — in which the contents of one bill are stripped and replaced with the text of another bill — to remove the language of Senate Bill 423 and replace it with the text of House Bill 2445.
According to the Kansas Association of School Boards, one change led to the mistake.
The original language of the bill would have added 15 percent of the local option budget — the money districts receive from local property taxes — to the base state aid per pupil, excluding any monies which go to special education. The language that passed would include the special education monies as part of base state aid.
KASB Associate Executive Director Mark Tallman said he believed the error was unintentional, and was likely a result of the eleventh hour nature of the bill.
The bill approved by lawmakers early Sunday was meant to phase in a $534 million spending increase over five years, and with the flaw, the figure is $454 million or perhaps a little less.
Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer plans to sign the law, with the expectation that the Legislature will author a fix when legislators return for the wrap-up session April 26.
Such fixes are not unusual, Tallman said.
“The challenge here,” he said. “Is that the bill passed with such a narrow margin, the fix may be a bit more controversial.”
The bill needed 63 votes in the Kansas House and passed 63-56, and needed 21 in the Kansas Senate, passing 21-19.
Hilderbrand, said that, while he was not opposed to more funding for local schools, he voted against the bill because he had not had time to read it — legislators were informed late Saturday night there was no time to print the final text of the 55 page bill before the vote deadline.
The problem Tallman said, was the provisions of the bill which dealt with local option budget hadn’t been previously circulated.
“This was a last minute change,” he said.
According to Hilderbrand’s Facebook post, the numbers given to legislators showed significantly less money going to Crawford County schools than otherwise would be the case.
Under the house bill, Northeast would have received an additional next year, but if the error is allowed to stand Northeast would now receive $92,105.
Other county schools would fare just as badly. Southeast stood to receive $48,229 With the error in the bill, Cherokee will lose $57,979.
Girard was looking at an additional $324,487 but with the error Girard would only see a $160,728 increase.
Frontenac stands to receive $418,329 in additional funding, but with the error only $269,271.
Pittsburg was looking at a general fund increase of $939,607, but with the error would only have seen an additional $457,520.
Tallman reiterated that this is not unusual, repairs are often made to bills in the wrap up session.
“The hope is just that we can get this resolved quickly,” he said.
The legislature is facing a court-ordered April 30 deadline to have a funding increase in place.
Attempts to reach State Rep. Adam Lusker, (D-Frontenac) for comment were unsuccessful.
— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.