Archive for Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Key lawmakers agree on $148 million school plan

July 6, 2005, 5:13 p.m. Updated 5:13 p.m.


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— Key lawmakers today agreed on a $148.4 million public school funding increase aimed at satisfying a Kansas Supreme Court order that has raised the possibility of shutting schools.

"We have a clean bill that will fund schools," state Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, said.

Legislative leaders said they may be nearing agreement on several issues as the session entered its 12th day, and picked up after a three-day break.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled the school finance system unconstitutionally inadequate and ordered lawmakers to increase school funding by $143 million.

The court set a deadline of July 1, which the Legislature broke, and has now called sides in the lawsuit to a Friday hearing to determine whether to close schools to try to force compliance.

Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman, in a letter to board members, said the district was making preparations on what would need to be done should the Supreme Court close schools.

Weseman said he was hopeful the Legislature would approve a finance plan, but added that he had to prepare for court action. "To ignore this possibility is, in my opinion, irresponsible," he said.

A committee of House and Senate negotiators recommended the $148.4 million school finance plan, which may be voted on by both chambers later tonight.

Lawmakers also will probably vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would prevent the Kansas Supreme Court from shutting schools as a remedy in school finance litigation.

"This would protect the kids from being used as pawns," House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, said.

But others had misgivings about advancing an amendment with little public discussion and debate, especially one that could limit legal rights.

"If someone has been harmed by government, is it right to take away remedies under the law?," House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg said.

Earlier proposals sought by conservative Republicans, including Mays, made any school funding increase contingent on the House and Senate advancing a proposed constitutional amendment that prohibited the courts from telling the Legislature to appropriate funds.

But Mays said that linkage has been abandoned after 11 days of deadlock.

Proposed amendments require a two-thirds' majority in both the House and Senate before they can be placed on the ballot for voter consideration.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius urged lawmakers to focus on complying with the court order.

After three days of criss-crossing the state, Sebelius said Kansans told her that the Legislature needed to fund schools.

"The public absolutely knows that the Legislature is back in session," Sebelius said. "They can't figure out what has been going on for 12 days, and they can't figure out how many more days it's going to take because they see it as pretty simple -- the Legislature needs to come in, fund the schools and come back home."


usaschools 12 years, 5 months ago

Nothing is more outrageous than Doug Mays claiming someone else is, " Using the kids as pawns." HE is the one using our children for his ridiculous grandstanding. He is the ONLY reason there has not been a resolution to the funding issue already. He stopped progress in the past, he is doing so again. He is grandstanding to put his political gain above the welfare of our children. His radical views are out of touch with those of most Kansans. I am sick of his lying.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 5 months ago

Mays lacks leadership and remains far to the right. So long as any agreement includes some type of court restraint an agreement is not close.

captain_poindexter 12 years, 5 months ago

Sebelius needs to butt out. She hasn't shown any leadership before, why should she start now? shut it, horse face

kugrad 12 years, 5 months ago

Actually Captain P, Governor Sebelius was WAY out in front of this issue, telling the legislature that they needed to increase school funding and introducing a plan to do so TWO YEARS AGO. Her plans were dismissed by a legislature that didn't take their constitutional obligation to fund schools seriously. She was wise not to introduce a plan now, as the right wing of the Republican party would then "blame" the increased funding on her and use it as fodder in their mud-slinging campaign commercials. The lack of leadership came from Rep. Mays and other obstructionists who tried their best to prevent progress toward a solution.

I think the most current proposal does NOT have any court restraint provisions. Look at this link for more info and to urge your legislators to fund public education.

MyName 12 years, 5 months ago

Right, kugrad, and also, unlike some republicans who should butt out (like Phil Kline), Gov. Sebelius actually has veto power, even line-item veto power. So her opinion actually matters a great deal.

lawrencian 12 years, 5 months ago

All I have to say is -- finally!! It is just too bad that they couldn't get this done in a day or two, rather than wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars before passing something 6 days after the court's deadline.

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