Politics & Government

What does Wichita want in a new school finance formula?

Jefferson Elementary third-grade teacher Delilah Crossette with her students in 2013.
Jefferson Elementary third-grade teacher Delilah Crossette with her students in 2013. Eagle file photo

The Wichita school district wants to make sure the state’s new school finance formula includes targeted dollars for English language learners, kids in foster care and homeless students.

Wichita superintendent John Allison submitted the school district’s suggestions for a new school finance formula to the governor’s office this week after Gov. Sam Brownback solicited advice from educators in August.

Kansas lawmakers are awaiting a ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court on whether the state provides adequate funding for schools. Regardless of how the court rules, lawmakers will have to craft a new school finance formula this session before the state’s temporary block grant system expires in June.

Allison’s letter to Brownback has three main requests. The district also provided the governor with a YouTube message from Wichita high school students explaining the district’s needs.

Students in the Wichita school district talk about the importance of their education, and how it prepares them for the future. (Courtesy of Wichita Public Schools)

First, the district would like the new formula to include “foundation aid,” which could be used to enhance teacher salaries, pay for the district’s technology needs and fund counselors and other support services.

The district wants to make sure the foundation aid provides enough money for “vibrant fine arts programs” and expanded science, technology, engineering and math curriculum.

The Kansas Association of School Boards also called for “foundational funding” in its request to the governor, saying it should be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. The association, which represents the state’s school boards, said the funding should be enough to cover the cost of all-day kindergarten and pre-school programs.

Allison also asked the governor to provide targeted funding for “students who have economic, physical, neurological, mental health or behavior issues.”

Allison noted that students in the state’s largest district speak 114 different languages, explaining that there is a need for more bilingual teachers.

He also asked for targeted funding to help impoverished students and highlighted homeless and truant students as groups that need extra support. He also asked for targeted funds to provide support for students in the foster care system.

“Governor Brownback, schools are critical to economic vitality. The workforce will continue to require more adults who are successful in post-secondary attainment,” Allison told the governor in his letter. “We can achieve these goals; however, we need your support and the support of elected leaders, including the assurance that funding will be adequate and stable to meet the needs of our diverse students.”

Allison’s final request was for increased funding for facilities management, particularly equipping schools with more technological resources.

“Today’s students live in a digital world,” Allison said. “Schools require an on-going revenue source to fund instructional staff to support learning through technology, and for enhanced infrastructure to support and refresh technology.”

Melika Willoughby, the governor’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that the office will soon begin reviewing the materials submitted by various groups.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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