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How do the School Board candidates differ? Part 2: Understanding of School Funding and Finance

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Last Wednesday’s Blue Valley Post School Board Candidate Forum gave voters insight on how well candidates understand school funding and finances. It also highlighted which candidates would support CUTS to existing programs and services. (Link to watch is below.)

The A+ Team of Patrick Hurley, Jodie Dietz, Jan Kessinger, and Clay Norkey understand how our schools are funded, and do NOT support cutting programs that serve students well. Hurley, Dietz, and Kessinger, already serving on the BV School Board, have experience with school funding intricacies. Kessinger served in the state legislature, which enhances his knowledge base. Clay Norkey has been involved with Blue Valley Schools for years, is current Chair of the BV Recreation Commission, and has expressed a clear understanding of the School Board’s role versus the Kansas Legislature’s role in school funding matters. Since Kansas law strictly regulates how public schools are funded - and from what sources - it is essential to have Board members who grasp the minutiae of funding

In contrast, some of the candidates backed by Moms For Liberty and The New York-based 1776 Project PAC appear not to understand and/or accept the realities of school funding in Kansas.

Moderator question: Is funding adequate to keep up with current expenses?

Hurley, Dietz, Kessinger and Norkey all emphasized that the state has NOT met its obligation to fund excess Special Education costs. In Blue Valley Schools, the deficit is about $12 million this year. Those dollars must come out of Blue Valley Schools’ GENERAL fund, which could otherwise be used to increase teacher pay, reduce class sizes, and fund additional critical educational supports.

One Moms For Liberty-backed candidate claimed she “had heard” Gov. Kelly say Special Education *IS* fully funded. Even after the moderator (a news editor) corrected her, and the audience audibly dissented, she doubled down: “I’m just saying what I’ve read.” As of this date, the candidate has not corrected this misinformation on her campaign FB page.

The Moms For Liberty-backed candidates also used the “dollars to the classroom” argument that we’ve heard on repeat from the Koch-backed Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) over the years. Anti-public education entities like KPI very narrowly define “the classroom” and do not include library media specialists; school nurses; counselors; art, music, P.E., and world language teachers; paraprofessionals, etc. - and they’ve made it clear “the classroom” does NOT include Social Workers. Like current BV BoE member Jim McMullen, the Moms For Liberty candidates plan to CUT Social Worker positions and most reiterated that in answering this question.

One candidate claimed “misallocation of resources,” but then did not respond to the moderator’s question of what specific resources, just saying: “ancillary stuff.”

Another candidate echoed Jim McMullen - who voted against a technology support contract because he opposes Blue Valley’s one device per-learner initiative. We talked in a previous post about reasons given by other Board Members and district administrators that one device per-learner is right for our students.

Jodie Dietz pointed out that the BV School Board spends *months* creating a budget, with input from a Board Advisory Committee that includes community members. Clay Norkey and Jan Kessinger emphasized the importance of BoE members communicating with legislators to ensure they know the needs of our district. Patrick Hurley said BV has an outstanding SpEd department and that the district cannot fully know from one year to the next how many students will require SpEd services. (We DO know that the BV numbers of SpEd students exceed state averages. People move here for the schools and outstanding SpEd support services!)

Blue Valley students cannot afford to have voters seat School Board candidates who do not understand or accept how our schools are funded or how district finances work. Our district cannot go backward to inadequate and inequitable technology. We can only imagine how cutting vital supports like Social Workers would do to student well-being and suicide rates.

Vote for proven, experienced candidates: Hurley, Dietz, Kessinger, and Norkey - starting Sat. Oct. 28 at BV Hilltop campus.

This question occurs at 1:04:10

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