Archive for Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Teachers’ union criticizes legislative ‘shell game’

March 1, 2005


— Kansas' teachers union Monday said legislative leaders had failed to come up with a legitimate education finance proposal because they were more concerned with politics than school children.

"The current shell game being played is irresponsible to our families and dishonest to schools," said Christy Levings, president of the 24,000-member Kansas National Education Assn.

Her comments came as lawmakers this week prepared to start the second half of the 2005 legislative session. The Kansas Supreme Court has given the Legislature until April 12 to increase school funding and distribute it more fairly.

The House and Senate education committees have approved two different approaches, but critics say the measures do little to address the court's concerns and lack any permanent method of funding.

"All plans thus far involve robbing Peter to pay Paul," Levings said.

The state must adopt a multiyear plan that kicks in an additional $1 billion to the $2.7 billion system, she said, and provides a stable funding source.

But leaders in the predominantly Republican Legislature say progress is being made on school finance.

"The goal is to get a good piece of public policy and do what is good for the schools and good for the kids," said Senate President Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton.

The Senate committee plan would increase school funding by $455 million over three years with first-year funding expected to be covered by growing tax revenues. But the proposal has no funding commitment in its second and third years.

"It's a framework," Morris said. "Obviously the out years will have to be funded. We just don't know exactly how that is going to play at this point."

The House committee plan would increase funding for schools by $102 million.

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said the first half of the legislative session was a prologue to the coming battles over education funding.

"Hopefully we really have cleared our plates to deal with school finance," she said.

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