Archive for Saturday, January 29, 2005

GOP blasts underfunding report

January 29, 2005


— No-new-tax Republicans don't like a fresh report that says Kansas is underfunding public schools.

The office of House Majority Leader Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, on Friday circulated a memo titled "Education Finance Talking Points."

One of those points criticized a survey of 55 school districts on the actual cost of education that was compiled by Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis.

"The survey and its questions did not have a rational basis," the Aurand memo said.

Talking points are often prepared by legislative leaders to help rank-and-file lawmakers know how to respond to questions or comments from constituents.

On Thursday, Dennis said the survey found that Kansas spends about 25 percent less on most students than what educators said was needed.

The gap grew when taking into account teaching bilingual and at-risk students, the report said. No dollar amount was given on how much it would take to fund the gap, but it would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Some Republicans and Democrats said the report was helpful as the Legislature faces an April 12 deadline to pass a new plan to finance public schools.

"Certainly, this is the type of information we need to proceed in putting together a school finance plan," said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka.

But Rep. Kathe Decker, R-Clay Center, chairwoman of the House Select Committee on School Finance, downplayed the Dennis report. She called it the "Gosh, this is what I'd like to spend on education" study.

She said the report included the costs of "extras" that are not mandated, though Dennis said he asked the school districts for information on what actual costs were needed to educate a child.

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