Archive for Saturday, December 24, 2005

Lawmakers soon will learn cost of providing education

School funding study anticipated just before Legislature convenes

December 24, 2005


— State lawmakers are getting nervous about what could be a huge bill.

In less than two weeks, the Legislative Division of Post-Audit is scheduled to hand over the much-anticipated school funding study.

The report will focus on what it costs to provide an education in Kansas, and how much it would cost to have a public school system that would give the state's 450,000 students a chance at reaching a proficient academic level.

The answers to these questions are surrounded by politics and judicial scrutiny as lawmakers gear up for the 2006 legislative session that starts Jan. 9.

"We're in uncharted waters here," said Senate Republican Leader Derek Schmidt, of Independence.

Asked what he thought the study would say, Schmidt said, "I don't think anyone knows."

Lawmakers increased school funding this year by $290 million after the Kansas Supreme Court declared the school finance system unconstitutional and under-funded.

The court said the Legislature's action was essentially a downpayment on what the pending cost study would say. The only consultants' study on education costs currently before the court says at least $568 million more must be pumped into the $3 billion school system.

The new cost study is scheduled to be released to the public Jan. 4 as the Legislative Post-Audit Committee convenes its meeting.

Until then, the Post-Audit division plans to keep working on the report to the exclusion of all other work.

Schmidt said once the study is done, there is a question on how the Legislature proceeds.

Do lawmakers work to fund what the report says, or do they wait for the state Supreme Court to do something?

Alan Rupe, the Wichita attorney representing the plaintiff school districts that won the case, said once the study is done, the Legislature needs to get to work on funding schools.

"What the cost-function analysis shows is important to the plaintiffs and all kids in public schools in Kansas," he said.

"I hope the court will put some bumper guards on the Legislature so they'll get going in a constitutional fashion," he said.


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