Kansas education groups have wish list

1/7/2013

By MARY CLARKIN

By MARY CLARKIN

Special to The Telegram

As the Jan. 14 opening of the Kansas Legislature approaches, education groups are ready with their wish lists.

For the Kansas Association of School Boards, the top objective is higher standards for students, educators, and school districts.

The school board association wants "to ensure all students graduating high school meet a higher standard than currently required."

It also favors greater state funding and an emphasis on local decision-making.

The Kansas National Education Association put school finance/funding at the top of its list.

"The Governor has said he does not want to cut education," said KNEA communications director Mark Desetti, so it will be "interesting," he said.

"We're already in the hole by $295 million," said Desetti, referring to recent revenue projections and the state general fund budget which shows a gap between revenue estimates and the funding needed for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2013.

If the state sales tax does not roll back in July 2013, as is slated, that would help, but not entirely close the gap, Desetti said.

And, legislators may be unwilling to vote to retain the sales tax that is supposed to expire, Desetti said.

The Kansas Board of Regents wants its next fiscal year budget to include an increase for inflation and funds for higher salaries for state university employees.

Other funding increases desired by the Board of Regents would be targeted at technical education costs at the two-year college level, and for various projects at universities — such as strengthening the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design at Kansas State University.

The Kansas Board of Education signaled in July it hopes to see a base state aid per pupil of $4,492 for the next fiscal year, a 17 percent jump from the current level of $3,838.

Both the Kansas Senate and House have an unusual number of freshmen, and the Senate and House education committees will be under new leadership.

Two Arkansas City Republicans — Sen. Steve Abrams and Rep. Kasha Kelley — will head the committees.

Abrams previously has served on the Senate Education Committee and also on the State Board of Education. By contrast, Kelley has not served on the House panel she will now lead.

Two outside events this month could shape the legislative agenda for education, too.

Shawnee County District Court is expected to issue a decision on a lawsuit challenging the sufficiency of state funding of schools. Hutchinson USD 308 and Dodge City USD 443 are among the plaintiffs.

Originally, a decision was to be announced in late November, then late December.

"Definitely" it will be issued in January, said a spokeswoman at Shawnee County District Court Thursday.

Also anticipated in January is the report from the Governor's task force on school efficiency, according to the Governor's staff.

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