Archive for Friday, January 16, 2004

Sebelius school finance plan gets mixed reviews

January 16, 2004


— The political spin continued today over Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' plan to increase state income, sales and property taxes to fund a $304 million increase for public schools.

Sebelius, a Democrat, said improving public schools was integral to helping the economy.

"I don't think you can have an economic recovery without strong schools," she told reporters during a Capitol news conference.

But Republicans said Sebelius' plan would hurt the state's economic rebound.

"She wants to raise taxes, and I want to grow the economy," House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, said. Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said, "There is a lot of resistance to a really major tax increase."

Earlier, Democratic legislative leaders said Sebelius' proposal is the best option presented so far to satisfy a court judge who declared the state school funding system unconstitional.

"We are hopeful that this progressive approach will keep us out of the courtroom," House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, a Democrat from Greensburg, said.

In December, Shawnee County District Judge Terry Bullock said the state school finance system was underfunded by about $1 billion, and it discriminated against minorities by shortchanging schools with high minority enrollment.

McKinney said that although Sebelius' proposal didn't come close to the $1 billion-figure, it targeted funding to at-risk students in an attempt to close an achievement gap that was a major concern of Bullock's.

Despite opposing Sebelius' proposal, Mays and Kerr said the measure would be given full hearings and voted on. "One way or another it deserves it's day in court," Mays said.

For more on this story, pick up a copy of Saturday's Journal-World.

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