Aside from public safety, I believe the foremost responsibility of the Kansas Legislature is to fund education and ensure that our children receive a quality education. I also believe that our approach must be child-focused, not system-focused, with the core mission being the best education for our children in a cost-effective and efficient manner which allocates public education dollars wisely, with the priority being spending on the actual classrooms.
While doing so seems like a simple task on the surface, it requires a delicate balancing act between varying interests, which combine to make the process of coming up with an appropriate education budget quite difficult.
For more than 20 years, Johnson County legislators have fought to reform the complicated and unworkable school finance formula in a way that would provide a basic level of funding for all, while enhancing local control by allowing local citizens the ability to support their own schools. Over that same twenty year time span, a number of significant roadblocks have stood in the way, from court rulings to the NEA to the fact that often rural interests differ from suburban or urban interests.
That changed in the last year, when the Kansas Legislature enacted reforms which even Steve Rose called a “win” for Johnson County schools – more funding, more local control, and an ability for local residents to increase the Local Option Budget.
The result is lower property taxes and more stability for our schools and therefore our kids. While more progress certainly needs to be made, our actions in the last two sessions represent a substantial step forward.