The 2014 Legislative Session has begun in earnest! With a number of important topics before us this year, the next few months will be challenging and probably contentious at times, but it is my hope and belief we will emerge with positive solutions.
This session like last year, I will be serving on the following committees:
Before I go forward with my first report, however, I have very sad news to report. It is with a heavy heart I share the news of the passing of Nancy Kleeb, wife of State Representative Marvin Kleeb who represents District 48 in Overland Park. The first time I met Marvin and Nancy we discovered that Marvin and I shared our home town in Nebraska – Broken Bow. It was a great moment to experience how small the world really can be and how many connections there are to those within our lives. Nancy was wonderful, with an engaging, friendly personality. She was adored by many. Please join Chad and I in praying for Marvin and the entire Kleeb family during this difficult time. Nancy will be greatly missed.
- Vice Chair, Education Budget
Session Report – Week 1
As is customary, the first week of this session was dominated by Governor Brownback’s annual State of the State address. The Governor outlined his priorities for the upcoming session as well as successes Kansas has enjoyed in the first three years of his leadership, particularly job growth and significant progress towards fiscal responsibility, in sharp contrast to what was occurring before he took office.
The governor also introduced his budget. It’s very important to remember that last year a two year budget was passed for both FY 2014 and FY 2015, so the proposals by the governor are merely adjustments. Those adjustments amount to $30.7 million over the approved appropriations for FY 2014 and $429.8 million over the approved appropriations in FY 2015. The governor’s proposed revised budget would leave the state with an ending balance of $530.5 million in FY 2014 and $247.6 million in FY 2015.
The most notable of the governor’s budget adjustments is $362.9 million for the Department of Corrections for FY 2015. Last year, the governor vetoed, in its entirety, the corrections budget for FY 2015 because it contained $8 million less than his initial request. As a result of the veto, there are actually currently no appropriations for corrections in FY 2015 – so the governor’s FY 2015 requested adjustment actually only equates to a 1.1 percent increase over FY 2014.
There has been much coverage in the press regarding the other main component in the governor’s FY 2015 budget – and that’s the additional $16.3 million to provide for the implementation of all-day Kindergarten statewide. House leadership announced this week the formation of a special committee to examine both the budgetary and policy aspects of this proposal. I’m interested to see the difference per district in increasing the status for Kindergarten versus adding $16.3 to the Base State Aid Per Pupil. I’m sure that last sentence confused some. K-12 education funding in Kansas is accomplished through a fairly complex formula. It begins with a number called the Base State Aid Per Pupil (BSAPP). This foundation number then flows through a formula full of different weightings for students such as “at risk” [determined by free lunch program], “ELL” [a student learning the English language], low enrollment and many others. A change to a weighting, or status as would be the case of Kindergarten students, will increase or decrease funding just as a change to the BSAPP will. Right now, a Kindergarten student is consider a .5 FTE or full time enrolled student.
As I said at the outset, with issues involving school finance likely to dominate the discussion this session, there will be much debate. As we wait the upcoming court ruling, I look forward to reviewing the facts of school funding in Kansas and the various responsibilities under the Kansas Constitution as well as discussing the proper course forward with school district officials, parents, and the taxpayers in general. With my committee assignments all touching the issue of education and finance, I look forward to being a part of these discussions.
Every year, there are opportunities for students to page for their legislator. This is a great opportunity for middle and high school students to learn more about their state government. If you would like your child to page for me, please contact me.
Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s newsletter. Please stay in touch throughout the session!