Topeka The Senate Education Committee endorsed a school finance bill this morning that would distribute state aid according to the needs of school districts, rather than on a per-student basis.
The bill now goes to the Senate Taxation Committee, where financial considerations will be ironed out.
The State Board of Education, which today released a computer printout showing the impact of the bill on each of the state's 304 local districts, said the Lawrence school district would receive $9.2 million more in state under the plan. It also would lower Lawrence's property taxes from 69.48 mills to 41.4 mills, a 29.23-mill drop. A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
The Senate committee's version is significantly different from the one passed two weeks ago by the House on a 82-43 vote. The House plan promotes a statewide 29-mill levy for public education.
SUPPORTERS of the new plan contend the House-passed version would create funding shortfalls in the future.
Looking over education board's computer runs, Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, said he was pleased how the bill would affect Douglas County's public schools.
He said the Senate plan provides almost as much reduction in property taxes as the House plan but gives more money back to the school district. He said the Senate plan also raises fewer taxes than the House plan, which called for a 0.75 percent sales tax increase and an increase in income taxes.
The House and the Senate are trying to come up with changes in the state's current school finance law. Shawnee County District Judge Terry Bullock gave lawmakers guidelines last fall to fix the school finance law, which he has indicated does not meet constitutional requirements to provide equal education for all the state's children.
"THIS APPROACH looks at it, first, at what's right for the kids, and second, what's right for the judge," Winter said. "The House plan tended to look at it the opposite way in making the judge happy first and then see what to do for the kids and the taxpayers."
The Senate committee approved the plan this morning on a 6-5 vote, with Republicans supporting the plan and Democrats opposing it. The measure was to go to the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee, which was scheduled to consider the funding portion of the bill later today. The education committee only discussed how state money would be distributed.
This morning's action came after the committee made numerous amendments the previous evening, stripping out a formula passed by the House that would have sent state money to schools on a per-student basis. In its place, the Senate committee approved a school aid plan that is similar to the present one.
SEN. DAN Thiessen, R-Independence, chairman of the tax committee, said the $452 million price tag of the House version is too high. He said he expects the committee to pare that down before sending it to the Senate for floor debate.
Winter said he wasn't certain if the $9.2 million increase in state aid the Senate version would bring to Lawrence's school district would remain in the bill.