Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Revisions ahead on special education

Legislation introduced on county sales tax to fund public schools

January 21, 2004


— Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday she was willing to change her proposal for funding special education after it raised alarms in Lawrence and several other school districts.

"This can easily come out of the plan," Sebelius said.

In other school-finance developments at the Capitol, Sen. Mark Buhler, a Lawrence Republican, introduced legislation that would create the option of a local sales tax increase for Douglas County public schools.

The proposal would allow the Douglas County Commission to submit to voters the question of whether to impose a countywide, half-cent sales tax increase. If approved, revenue from the increase would be awarded to school districts within the county's boundaries.

But Buhler said he hoped the proposal wouldn't be needed and that the Legislature would adopt a plan that increased school funding statewide.

"We're all hopeful that we can do something on a grander scale statewide that would prevent us from having to do this," Buhler said.

Sebelius has proposed raising state income, sales and property taxes to fund a $304 million increase in public school funding over three years.

As part of her plan, Sebelius proposed lumping the state's $250 million appropriation for special education with the state's $2.6 billion in basic aid to public schools.

The proposed change had the effect of spreading special education dollars to every student instead of specifically targeting special education students. Schools with higher concentrations of special education students were hurt by the proposal. The Lawrence school district would have lost $1.9 million.

Since unveiling her school plan last week, many legislators and school officials have complained about the special education portion.

"It has never been my intent to propose any kind of cut in special education," Sebelius said, adding that she was willing to consider changes to the special education portion of her overall education plan.

"If that misappropriates money in a way that will do harm, we don't want to do it," she said.

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