Topeka The Kansas House today approved a $125.2 million increase in school funding in response to a Kansas Supreme Court order.
The measure holds the line on state taxes, but allows local districts to increase property taxes by nearly $500 million statewide. It was approved 76-48, almost entirely on Republican support.
The bill now goes to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who, although a critic of the measure, said she would not veto it in order for the legislation to be sent to the court for review.
"I need to get it to the court, so I'm likely to send it to the court quickly," Sebelius said.
The state Supreme Court has ruled that lawmakers have failed their constitutional responsibility to provide schools with adequate and equitable funding. The court gave the Legislature until April 12 to fix the school finance plan.
Supporters of the plan said it would address concerns of the court by increasing funds for programs directed to at-risk, bilingual and special education students. They also touted the proposal because it doesn't increase state taxes.
But opponents said the funding increase is not enough, there is no ongoing finance for the plan, and the lack of a statewide tax increase was a ruse for the fact the bill will allow local districts to increase property taxes.
The Lawrence school district would see a $2.2 million increase under the proposal, or about $229 per student. The district would be allowed to raise its local property taxes to 30 percent of its general fund budget. The cap is currently 25 percent. In addition, Lawrence is one of 17 districts statewide that would be allowed to raise local taxes again to raise funds for teacher pay.
The bill's supporters said local districts should be allowed to make the decision on whether to increase taxes, but opponents said increasing the local component of funding will further widen the gap between wealthy and poor districts.
The court ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by school districts that claimed minority and disabled students received less state funding than other students. A district court ruled the state school finance method was "blatantly" unconstitutional.
Sebelius said she hadn't made a final decision on whether to sign the bill or allow it to become law without her signature. "I'm not very likely to sign it," she said.