School funding bill impact

Dear Neighbors:

Certainly enjoying the nice weather.  Larry and I drew lottery tickets to the Masters practice round Wednesday and we had fun just walking around watching the pros and seeing the beautiful course.  We saw Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player in the par 3 tournament.  And we saw Tom Watson and Gary Woodland as well.  Fun stuff for a couple of duffers!

There is LOTS going on this spring in our communities.  Check out the community calendar below and join in!


I got a copy of the budget impact of the school funding bill.  The state will be made to start supporting school bonds again through equalizing capital outlay.  This has been state law for some time, but the Legislature just stopped obeying the law.  There will be some new money for classrooms, but some taken away as well.  Since most of our districts have maxed out their Local Option Budgets already, most of the money coming in for equalizing supplemental funding (operating funds) will go to lowering your mill levy.  That is good news, but the Legislature’s plan for putting more real money into the classroom is to raise your property taxes back up by raising the cap on the LOB from 31 to 33% and by raising the figure on which the LOB is calculated.

Here is the impact on our area school districts:

Baldwin City 162,471 37,200 286,549
Lawrence 0 331,759 812,575
Santa Fe Trail 40,320 23,744 335,080
Burlingame 0 282,228 0
Auburn Washburn 214,747 193,754 693,636
Shawnee Heights 511,402 195,924 674,450
Topeka 1,361,744 607,468 3,796,021

If your district had maxed out its LOB, you get more property tax relief.  If your district was below the cap, you got more money into the classroom.  While the additional operating dollars look like big numbers, they are pretty much a small part of the total budget.  So don’t be surprised if your district still has to cut teachers, increase class size, or close schools.  The bigger part of the lawsuit that deals with boosting state aid to the classroom has yet to be decided.


Water – the quality and quantity – is at risk. We are all familiar with concerns about the Ogallala aquifer, but it goes beyond that. The state has gotten rid of many of the people who are experienced in testing water quality. KDHE just approved the expansion of Seaboard’s Greely County Ladder Creek hog operation to handle up to 396,000 hogs. It will be the second largest operation in the US and generate twice as much waste as the City of Wichita. The Kansas Geological Survey has reported that the aquifer at this site is “effectively exhausted”. In normal operation the waste is pumped into lagoons and diluted with water to be pumped onto fields. KDHE allowed Seaboard to skip this permit requirement to fill the lagoons to a certain level with water to reduce the odor. KDHE said it wasn’t required to mandate that Seaboard has access to enough water to properly operate the waste management system.  In a state that depends on water quality for its agriculture, we can do better.


If you have community events coming up, let me know.  This email goes to nearly 3000 homes in Shawnee, Osage, and Douglas counties. I’d love to help you get the word out!  Just remember to send your activities ahead of time.

  • Thursday, April 17: National Night Out planning meeting for Shawnee County neighborhoods at the Library at 6:30 pm.
  • Saturday, April 19:  Volunteers who want to help pick up tree limbs in Overbrook are asked to gather at the Kansas State Bank parking lot at 9 am.  A fun community project that only takes a couple of hours.
  • Saturday, April 19:  Topeka Sunflower Lions Club Pancake Breakfast and silent auction from 7 am to noon at the First Christian Church, 1880 SW Gage.  Pancakes, sausage, biscuits and gravy.
  • Saturday, April 19: Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum grounds cleanup.  At the museum near Clinton.  9 am.
  • Tuesday, April 22:  Come help the Overbrook Rotary Club members landscape the Library.  Stop by the library and sign up for a work shift.
  • Thursday, April 24:  Harvesters mobile food pantry at Stull United Methodist Church from noon to 1 pm.
  • Thursday, April 24:  If you are a parent wanting to know more about the College and Career Readiness Standards, go to the informational meeting at Washburn Rural Middle School, 5620 SW 61st St, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.  This is important!  Learn more about what is available for your child to be successful.
  • Saturday, April 26:  Overbrook city-wide garage sale.
  • Saturday, April 26:  Combat Air Museum Celebrity Pancake Feed from 7 am to noon. $6 includes all the pancakes and admission to the Museum.  Also includes a variety of items marked for sale.
  • Saturday, April 26:  Clean up day at Clinton Cemetery.  Memorial Day Ceremony will be Monday, May 26th, at the Cemetery.
  • Saturday, April 26: ASPCA Help a Horse Day – Horse Rescue Open House at B &C Equine Rescue, 740 SW 125th Street near Carbondale from noon to 4 pm.  Learn about horse rescue, therapy programs, horse care and more.  For info call Brenda Grimmett at 785-633-3318.
  • Saturday, April 26:  Get Down and Get Dirty!  Community clean-up day in Shawnee County from 10 am to noon.  Free lunch, t-shirts and prizes for volunteers.  For more information write to or call 785-224-0446.
  • Thursday, May 1: Annual Overbrook Community Prayer Breakfast at the Community Center in the Library.  Breakfast served starting at 6 am for a donation.  Speaker will be Pastor John Zobel.
  • May 2-3:  Carbondale City Library flower sale.
  • Friday, May 9:  Celebration Walk starting at 6 pm for Midland Hospice, 200 SW Frazier Circle in Topeka.  Celebrate the lives of special people in your life. For info: .
  • Saturday, May 3:  Topeka Civitan Club golf tournament at Cypress Ridge Golf Course.  For information contact Russ Cole at 785-272-5580.
  • Saturday, May 3:  Shawnee County Master Gardeners Spring Plant Sale Extravaganza in the front parking lot at the Extension Office (1740 SW Western Ave) from 8 am to noon. Bedding plants, perennials, and hanging baskets.  Don’t miss this one!
  • Thursday, May 22:  Community Connections Celebration at Santa Fe Park in Osage City from 3-5 pm.  Sponsored by ECKAN, a community action agency serving low-income families.  Refreshments, children activities, informational booths, drawings, and more!
  • June:  The Shawnee Heights High School Cross Country team is planning a garage sale in June and they need your donations.  Contact Shelly Clubine at 785-357-7924 for pick-up.


  • There is story time every Thursday evening at the Auburn Library from 6:30 to 7:30 pm.  No charge!
  • Poultry and small animal swap meet at Tractor Supply Company at 710 NE HWY 24 the third Sunday of every month.  Great way to support local farmers as there are fresh eggs, live birds and rabbits as well.  No buyer or seller fees.  Just don’t sell the same stuff the store sells.
  • Enjoy BUNCO at the Carbondale Community Building once a month on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.  Call 785-836-7478 for details about dates, prizes, treats, etc.
  • Don’t miss the Beatles display at the WREN radio station in the NOTO district in North Topeka.  Ronnie Russell and Tony Wedeking have an extensive display of Beatles memorabilia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the British invasion.  Runs through April 30.
  • The Berryton Pickers are at Berryton Baptist Church the first Saturday of the month from 7 to 9 pm.  Bring snacks and have some fun!
  • Swap meet the last Saturday of the month from March through October from 7 am to noon at Premier Farm and Home at 900 SW University Blvd (just west of Forbes Air Field).  Baby chicks, laying hens, guineas, roosters, rabbits, ducks, geese, eating eggs, hatching eggs, and more!  For more info call Karl at 785-547-5046.
  • Country and ballroom dancing at Croco Hall on Thursday nights from 6 to 9 pm.  For information call Edwina Hamersky at 379-9538.


Quote of the week from a teacher concerned about the Legislature eliminating teacher due process:  ”My teaching conditions are your kids’ learning conditions.”  How true!  We simply must treat the most important people outside of parents in our kids’ lives with more respect. 



School funding bill goes to the Governor

Dear Neighbors:

Last night I stood on the House floor and watched my state representative and 62 of his colleagues vote to trash public education.  It was a sad day for Kansas.  Leaving the capitol I saw teachers in tears at what was done to them and their profession.  Here is a summary of key items passed by the Legislature and sent to the Governor.


The Legislature tonight sent a bill to the Governor for signature to resolve the first part of the school funding lawsuit on equalization.  Unfortunately, the Legislature took the opportunity to insert into the bill a number of policies that work against public education.  Here is a summary of the key points in the bill:

  •  Increases state aid per student by $14 for the next school year.
  • Adds $129 million to education funding to equalize the difference between low and high property value districts, as the court ordered.  I don’t have a breakdown of where all that money comes from, but will provide it when I do.  Less than half is “new” money.  Most comes from reducing other budget items.
  •  People who have degrees in science, technology, math, finance and accounting can now teach in your schools without a teaching license.
  • Corporations can now get a tax credit for donating to private school scholarship funds to be ear-marked for low-income students, up to $10 million a year.
  • The lid on the local option budget is lifted from 31% to 33%.
  • Eliminates due process for teachers. Currently, teachers who have more than three years’ teaching experience can get a hearing if their contracts are not renewed or they are fired.  Now they can be fired for no reason and their only recourse is to take the school district to court.  This will add cost to a process that went pretty smoothly already.


Rather than just pass a bill to resolve the funding issue, the Legislature inserted policies that will hurt Kansas public education.  Kansas teachers do not have tenure.  There is no guarantee of employment. What they did have was a right to a hearing.  Now that is gone.

Going forward, almost anyone can be hired to teach your children. No license or knowledge of how to teach is required if potential teachers have degrees in the areas of science, math, finance, technology or accounting.  The number one factor in student success is teacher preparation.  But tonight the Legislature said that did not matter.  Believe me, just knowing a subject does not make you a good teacher.  I’m scared for the future of our schools.

I do not know why anyone would come to teach in Kansas. Our salaries are near the bottom of all states.  And now the legislature says even with decades of experience you can be fired at will for no reason without a hearing.

On the financial side, there is a mix of news on property taxes.  Much of the $129 million will go toward property tax relief, and that is good.  But we need more money in the classroom. So the Legislature’s best idea on that was to raise your property taxes back up!  They raised the lid on the Local Option Budget and raised the base amount on which your LOB is calculated.  So more of the cost of education is shifted to property taxes and away from income and sales tax.

Corporations came out winners with another $10 million in tax credits that are claimed to help low-income kids but will never get there because private schools don’t bus urban kids to their schools.

It was a sad day for public education.  I hope the public wakes up to what’s going on at the capitol.  If you have questions, write to me at

April 5 update

Dear Neighbors:

Friday was the end of the regular legislative session, but they are working this weekend to finish a school finance bill.  In the mean time, more bills are headed to the Governor’s desk as conference committees work out House and Senate differences. Here is a summary of what’s going on at this point.


As I write, the House is preparing to vote on a school funding proposal that came out of the House/Senate conference committee.  It has about half “new” money and half taken from other sources.  Here are some of the features included:

  • Eliminates teacher tenure (i.e., it removes due process for all teachers and they could be fired without cause)
  • Tax-credit-based scholarship program for low-income students going to private schools
  • Property tax refunds for homeowners whose children attend private schools
  • Allows school districts to calculate their LOB on a larger base number for one year (i.e., $4540 per student vs. current $4433 per student).
  • Raises the Local Option Budget cap from 31% to 33%.  The Legislature expects schools who need more money to raise it with property tax increases by next year.

Johnson County has been after the Legislature for years to raise the LOB lid.  These policy issues are overshadowing the funding issues at this point.  My guess is they are just running this bill by the House for a vote to show the Senate that it has no chance of passage and get the Senate back to the table.  But I could be surprised!   I will do another newsletter when the final bill goes to the Governor.


These bills have been sent to the Governor for signature:

  • A bill to lower the initial investment in a casino in southeast Kansas.  Current law requires a $225 million investment and that has been a barrier.  The new law lowers the investment to $50 million, the same as the Dodge City casino.
  • Another bill mandates that most health insurers provide coverage for children’s autism. The bill requires policies to cover up to 1,300 hours of treatment a year for children who are diagnosed with autism before age 5, and 10 hours a week for older children. The law may need to be tweaked next session to line up with the Affordable Care Act.


The Legislature passed a constitutional amendment you will see on the November 4 ballot. This amendment allows charitable raffles for various non-profit organizations.  If it passes, the Legislature would be able to authorize charitable raffles.  Organizations included would be religious, fraternal, educational, and veterans nonprofit organizations.


Here are bills signed into law by the Governor:

  • HB 2591 requires municipal audit reports to be filed electronically with the Secretary of State.
  • HB 2715 changes regulations on transportation of farm equipment by implement dealers on highways.
  • HB 2597 allows municipalities that provide sold waste collection to immediately offer recycling services (could run private recyclers out of business)
  • HB 2611 reduces the amount of time a dentist has to be physically present in the office (makes it possible for dentists to serve multiple offices, which could help in rural areas)
  •  HB 2210 prohibits voters from changing political parties from June 1 until the primary is over.  This stops voters from one party switching to participate in the other party’s primary.
  • SB 248 requires, when feasible, notice be given to crime victims at east 14 working days in advance of the release of inmates who committed crimes against those victims.


For Shawnee County residents only:

  • Saturday, April 12:  household hazardous waste collection at Pauline Central Primary School, 6625 SW Westview Rd 9 am to noon.
  • Saturday, May 3: Dispose of old tires at Expert Tire, 3701 S Topeka Blvd from 7 am to 6 pm.  4 tire limit.  Residential free dump at Rolling Meadows Landfill, 7351 NW Hwy 75 from 7 am to noon.  Dump tree limbs at Garick, 2200 SE Waterworks, from 8 am to noon & 1 pm to 4:45 pm.


School funding bill filed

Dear Neighbors:

Gave blood yesterday for the 41st time.  Thanks to the Berryton Kiwanis for sponsoring the blood drive.

Lots going on at the Legislature now as they head toward “drop dead day”.  Wanted to give you an overview of where they are on meeting the Supreme Court order on school funding and provide some insight on some other issues of interest.


The Governor and the House and Senate leadership worked out a deal to resolve the school funding order from the Kansas Supreme Court.  The Court ordered that the Legislature follow its own law on school funding and fully fund the parts of the school funding formula that helps low property value districts keep up with high property value districts.

This meant that the Legislature needed to find $129 million more for schools -  $25 million for capital outlay and $104 million for supplemental funding.  Apparently there is no dispute about the capital outlay funding.  But the Governor and leadership are wanting to get some policy changes they want and haven’t been able to get out of the Education Committees if they have to pay up the supplemental funding.  On Thursday the House filed a bill to fund the Court order.  Here is some of what is included:

  •  $10 million for private-owned charter schools paid for with tax dollars. These schools would be largely unregulated.
  • If there are future lawsuits, the courts would include all spending for schools, whether it is for classroom teaching or not.
  • Tax credits for businesses that donate to private schools, with vouchers for students to attend private schools.
  • Loosening of licensing requirements for teachers.
  • Some of the funding comes from reducing funding for at-risk students in low-income schools and transportation funding.  In all, only $29 million is ”new” money.  $100 million is taken from existing funding.
  • It says that the Rose standard required under the Supreme Court’s order would be met as long as schools are able to achieve accreditation.  In other words, we’ll know we’re not spending enough when schools fail to get accredited.

The Speaker of the House says that charter schools were not part of the deal he cut with the Governor, so he will file another bill today and we’ll see if anything else is in there.  When I get the details, I’ll let you know.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee has made cuts to other funds to provide funds to meet the Court’s demands.  Some of the funds the Senate proposes to cut are:  The Kansas Adjutant General’s disaster response fund; cut the Kansas Bioscience Authority funds for bringing new businesses to Kansas by $8 million; cut funding for all-day kindergarten; eliminating the 1.5% pay increase for state employees.


If you live in the Overbrook area, don’t miss the grand opening of the Fairchild Wellness Center on Sunday, March 30, from 1-4 pm.  It’s located at 401 Oak Street in Overbrook.  Owner Cheryl Miller says everyone is welcome to attend 12 free wellness classes March 31 to April 3.  Get more information at


Cumulus is hosting a Job Fair at the Ramada Hotel Downtown in Topeka on Wednesday, March 26th, from 10 am to 2 pm.  Just some of the employers who will be there:  KCI Roadrunner, Foley Tractor, Hy-Vee, Plato’s Closet, K-Mart Distribution Center, Alorica, Legacy on 10th, USD 501, Topeka Police Department, Reser’s Fine Foods, Young Williams Child Support Services, Sheltered Living, Aldersgate Village, US  foodservice, and Durham School Services.


You’re going to be hearing a lot of things said about the Kansas economy, jobs, and how Kansas is doing under the tax cut “experiment”.  I’ll try to help sort it out with some fact checking.  I heard the Governor mention on TV recently that Kansas had 15,000 new business filings last year.  That number is right.  What he didn’t mention is that 16,000 businesses were dissolved or forfeited for failure to file an annual report.  About 4500 business owners reinstated their businesses.  So the number of net new businesses was only about 3,600.  This means the growth of new businesses was less than before the tax cuts.

School funding update

Dear Neighbors:

Enjoyed pancakes with the Auburn Lions Club last Saturday.  I can tell it’s going to be a five-pound spring!

The wheat and chaff are starting to sort themselves out in the Legislature now.  Bills are being heard, passed, or discarded.  More bills will start to land on the Governor’s desk through April 4, which is called “Drop Dead Day”.  That is the day the Legislature takes a break until April 30. During that break they re-assess the financial situation.  On April 30 they return for the “veto” session and wrap things up.


I got some information on how much the recent Supreme Court ruling would mean for our area school districts if the Legislature does what the Court ordered.  The Court only ordered funding to fix the “equity” problem by July 1.  That would provide additional funding for capital outlay and supplemental funding.  Here is what our area districts could expect to see if the full $129 million is funded:

Santa Fe Trail  $                   40,320.00  $                     346,366.00
Burlingame  $                                 -  $                       80,465.00
Baldwin City  $                 162,471.00  $                     303,972.00
Lawrence  $                                 -  $                 1,016,534.00
Auburn Washburn  $                 214,747.00  $                     779,821.00
Shawnee Heights  $                 511,402.00  $                     764,751.00
Topeka Public Schools  $             1,361,744.00  $                 3,991,361.00

It is not clear how the Legislature plans to deal with the Court order, so we don’t know if they will fund the equalization or not.  Even if they do, this will not fix the funding issues our districts are facing right now.  Until they deal with the “adequacy” issue, we won’t know the full impact of the Court order.  And that will take some time considering certain appeals.  If your district is not listed and you would like to know how much your district might get, just write back and let me know (


Here are some bills passed since the Legislature came back last week:

  • The Senate passed a constitutional amendment to allow raffles by nonprofit, charitable, fraternal, educational, and veterans organizations.
  • The Senate passed a bill to protect student record privacy.
  • The House passed a bill to provide property tax relief by funding the Local Ad Valorem Tax Relief Fund to the tune of $45 million. But don’t go spending it yet! It was just a vote for show so the House members could put on their campaign postcards that they tried to lower property taxes.  It will go nowhere in the Senate.


  • A bill in the House to require insurance companies to provide coverage for autism got watered down in committee this week.  It puts a cap on services that won’t work for a lot of families facing autism service needs.
  • Looks like that bill that would provide a property tax exemption for private health/fitness clubs is dead for this year.
  • A bill expanding gun rights by removing the authority of cities and counties to regulate them is still being worked in the House.  They stripped out the part about anyone being able to carry a loaded firearm in their vehicle and the part about allowing juveniles to have concealed carry. The House should vote on this next week.
  • The Senate denied funding for a new KU Medical School health education building.  KU was asking the state to split funding with private donors.  KU officials said their accreditation and ability to provide enough doctors was at risk, but the Senate Ways and Means Chair dismissed their concerns.


One of the results of dropping thousands of Kansans from food stamps, eliminating the food sales tax rebate, and increasing taxes on the poor is increased food insecurity.  Food insecurity means a family is in a situation where food runs out, there is no money to get more food, a family can’t afford a balanced meal, they skip meals, or reduce the size of meals to make food stretch.  And this situation lasts 3 months or more.

Believe it or not, in a state that prides itself on agriculture, 14.4% of Kansans live with food insecurity.  That means that more than 167,000 households in Kansas live with food insecurity.  And the state of Kansas has left $48 million in our food stamps account unspent.  We can do better.