Archive for Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Audit calls for pouring cash into schools

At least $316M needed to improve state’s public education, report finds

January 10, 2006


— A legislative report Monday called for spending at least $316 million more on public schools, which lawmakers said could be done without raising taxes.

Release of the study kicked off the 2006 legislative session and may make expanded gambling attractive to lawmakers as they search for more money for schools.

The analysis put a higher price tag - $399 million - on how much it would cost school districts to meet performance levels required by the state. It would cost $624 million to reduce class sizes to a maximum of 20 students, according to the report.

The Lawrence school district, which currently receives $56.2 million in base state aid per year, would receive an increase of $8.3 million to $15 million per year under the report's various scenarios.

As the day progressed, legislative staff upped the study results, saying the $316 million increase was really $400 million when taking into account additional pension and local budget requirements, while the $399 million was really $470 million.

Plaintiffs encouraged

The study stems from a long-running lawsuit in which the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state had underfunded schools and shortchanged minority students.

Last year, lawmakers pumped $290 million more into the $3 billion school finance system and commissioned the study to see what to do next.

Alan Rupe, attorney for the plaintiff school districts, said the new study "charts a path to attain a constitutional education for Kansas kids."

Rupe said the $399 million increase was the minimum needed for the next year.

"The kids that cost the most to educate ... we are still not spending the money we need to spend to make education in Kansas adequate for them," Rupe said.

The study reiterated what Rupe has alleged and the courts have found to be true - the state school finance system is wracked with inequities.

For example, the study found the state's basis for funding at-risk services has little relationship to the number of students who receive at-risk services, and that school districts spent much more to provide bilingual services than they were provided by the state.

But it may have started an urban-rural battle with its recommendation that additional money be spent on high-poverty, inner-city school districts while reducing the weighting factors that favor small school districts.

Legislative reaction

Despite the call for millions more in spending, most state leaders didn't blink as word of the report spread about the Capitol.

A rebounding economy and increasing tax collections, coupled with the possibility of expanded gambling, could fund the program without a tax increase, some said.

"It'll require a bipartisan effort," House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, said. "We can do it without raising taxes. It will take a tight budget and some economic growth."

Lawmakers who have long argued about the accuracy of education cost studies put more credence into the report because it was done by the Legislative Division of Post Audit.

"For the first time, we have credible data that lets us focus on the needs of groups of kids and sort through the noisy demands of interest groups," Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, said.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, said the report, like previous ones, showed the state has failed to adequately fund schools.

"Each time the studies tell us the same thing: We are just not meeting our obligations to the kids of Kansas," Hensley said. "I'm not going to say I told you so, but we really were telling them (Republicans) so.

"This study readily points out that we have to do a better job in closing the achievement gap and really fund low-income kids," Hensley said.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said she planned to meet with legislative leaders Wednesday to talk about the study.

"This will be the primary topic ... how we are going to approach getting a bill where the Legislature can pass it, I can sign it and we can move forward," Sebelius said.

Sebelius said she didn't believe a tax increase was necessary. "I continue to believe that expanded gaming comes first if we're looking for new revenues, not taxes," she said.


tolawdjk 12 years, 4 months ago

Does this take into account the money needed for the the new books required for Astrology, Transfiguration, Potions, Divinations, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Quidditch?

badger 12 years, 4 months ago

Don't be ridiculous. You could at least try to be realistic, here.

Quidditch books come out of the Booster Fund and the concession sales.

Everyone knows that.


Jamesaust 12 years, 4 months ago

I thought quidditch funds would be part of the new rec center budget that the city was going to fund while the school district pleaded poverty.

Goodness knows: the City of Lawrence has no TABOR rule.

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