PITTSBURG — Hopes faltered Wednesday that a years-long legal battle over school funding would be resolved, as reports emerged that Schools for Fair Funding, a group representing several Kansas school districts, was withdrawing support for Gov. Laura Kelly’s $92 million school funding plan.
Schools for Fair Funding represents dozens of Kansas school districts, including Wichita and Kansas City, but not Pittsburg Community Schools.
Less than a month ago, SFF supported Kelly’s plan for education funding, an issue she campaigned on, but “now says the plan contains a drafting error that will eventually shortchange funding by $270 million a year,” according to the Wichita Eagle. “State education officials say there was no error.”
Reached for comment by the Morning Sun, area legislators said they were dismayed that the SFF’s disagreement with Kelly could lead to problems for school funding statewide.
“It affects every school district in the state of Kansas,” said State Rep. Monica Murnan (D-Pittsburg). “I continue to stand by the governor’s budget as it relates to school finance and I look forward to actually having hearings on this topic so that we can continue to move it through the court system.”
Murnan added the dispute could potentially lead to unintended consequences for school funding, even though increased funding for schools is a goal shared by SFF and Gov. Kelly.
“As of today, halfway through the legislative session, there have been no hearings and no votes on this topic. We need to get moving,” she said. “Leadership of the legislature is slowing this down to the point that this will negatively impact funding for the ‘19-’20 school year.”
State Sen. Richard Hilderbrand (R-Baxter Springs) said he was “waiting to see how everything comes out in committee to see how it works out,” before taking a stronger position on the issue, but was disappointed that the earlier agreement had seemingly fallen through.
“It seemed like there was a consensus with the Department of Education and the SFF and the governor, and this complicates things,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate that this is something that continues to drag on, but it looks like Schools for Fair Funding is willing to continue it.”
State Rep. Kenneth Collins (R-Mulberry) and State Rep. Michael Houser (R-Columbus) could not be reached for comment.
In Pittsburg Community Schools (USD 250), total expenditures have steadily risen from just under $12,000 per pupil in the 2016-17 school year, to $12,576 in 2017-18, to $13,224 budgeted for the 2018-19 school year, according to a school district budget document.