Archive for Thursday, January 11, 2007

District sets priorities for legislative session

January 11, 2007

The Kansas Legislature opened its 2007 session Monday, and local school districts are already explaining what they need from this year's session.

The De Soto USD 232 School District is asking for funding of all-day kindergarten, increasing financial support for at-risk students and more support for special education programs. The district develops a legislative platform, approved by elected school board members, to explain its positions on past and future legislation affecting schools.

Although legislators agreed last year to satisfy a school finance lawsuit requirement for more money to schools, administrators say the battle for funding isn't over. This is the first year in the three-year school-funding plan.

Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, said he was still against the school finance plan.

"All the Johnson County legislators voted against it last time," he said of the school finance plan passed last year. "I don't see us changing our minds anytime soon."

Brown said he disagreed with the method of distribution. Much of Johnson County's taxes are going to fund schools elsewhere, he said.

USD 232's platform also maintains its position in favor of keeping local option budget taxes at 30 percent of the general fund. The number was raised last year from 27 percent.

Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said the district was required to tax at least 25 percent of the local option budget in order to get money for new facilities weighting, which provides extra money for districts with new classrooms.

Another item on this year's legislative platform is funding for special education excesses. Zoellner said the state funds special education programs at about 92 percent. The district has to pay any excess for the programs, which they are required by law to provide.

"It includes staff; that's the biggest cost," Zoellner said. "You have to have additional staff to provide for students with special needs."

Zoellner said, however, that the state formula provides much more than federal funding for special education programs.

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