No ideas on school finance? Fine, I’ll go first.

What to do about the school finance system? Nobody has come forward with a concrete proposal. The governor wants you to send an email. The Kansas Association of School Boards wants you to send an email.

I want you to send me to Topeka.

That’s a much stronger message. Because here’s what I’ll say: The schools are our state’s first job. They are literally the first thing in the State Constitution after the government is set up.

There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the old funding formula. But it had two problems: 1) it wasn’t recession proof (or at least recession-tolerant) and 2) it wasn’t predictable at the state level. The closest thing I’ve seen to a “plan” so far would largely reinstate the time- and court-tested old formula. But there is one change: the almost total loss of local budget control. Your local school board would have very limited ability to raise and spend money on the kind of education their residents want. I am not a fan of this idea.

I believe the key is something like the revenue sharing model found in professional sports. The state should raise and spend an equal amount of money per student. Then, it should throw in some extra funding for transportation, economics, and language issues unique to each district. Then, local school boards should be able to raise extra money if their voters support them.  However, once they raise over a certain amount or percentage, some of that extra money will go to the help other schools around the state.

For example, your local school board might be able to raise and spend an extra $1 million and keep that money entirely local. But over that threshold, some percentage would go to help schools statewide deal with special needs students or unexpected jumps in enrollment. The details would be negotiable, but the concept is: as your local students get more resources, all statewide students get more resources. This is equitable. This gets us a whole lot closer to adequate.

Send the governor an email.

Tell him to check out my website.

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