By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
After the Kansas Supreme Court ruled recently the state needed to better fund its poorer school districts, state lawmakers narrowly passed a bill that funds schools as the high court had ordered.
Local Kansas Representative Reid Petty was among the 57 of the 120-member House who voted against the provision. Petty earlier was among the 91 who voted for an original plan endorsed by Gov. Sam Brownback that had few minor policy changes.
Petty explained what changed his mind when it came to a vote on the final bill.
“I voted ‘no’ on the final plan that passed the House 63-57 because a provision to take away due process for teachers was added to the bill,” he said in an e-mail to the Leader & Times. “While I believe due process system in schools needs to be reformed and is too difficult for bad teachers to be fired, I don’t believe a major policy change such as that should be attached to a spending bill at the 11th hour without properly being vetted.”
Petty said the topic of teacher due process had no formal hearings in the House Education Committee the past two years.
“There needs to be public hearings with public input along with studies done to see what other states have done who have reformed due process before making such an important decision that is a major policy change,” he said. “That is bad government, in my opinion.”
Tuesday, voters went to the polls to decide the fate of a school bond issue which could bring some much needed space to USD No. 480 schools. Petty said the funding portion of the bill the Kansas House recently passed could be good for Liberal.
“They will get extra money,” he said of the local district, estimating about $1 million in extra funding for USD 480.
Originally figured at 49 percent, news Friday noted state funding would now provide 54 percent of the $127 million for the school bond, a net gain of nearly $6.4 million in state aid.
Before Tuesday’s vote, matching aide for bond issues was available to districts who have a local option budget of under 25 percent such as USD 480.
Petty talked to the L&T prior to the final count of Tuesday’s election, and he said if the bond passed, Liberal would not see any effects from the recently passed House bill.
“When we voted on it, the outcome of the bond was unknown,” he said.