Archive for Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Senate leaders want debate on school finance

Both the House plan and a rival Senate plan have no provisions for new revenue

March 28, 2006


Two Senate leaders said Monday they would like their chamber to debate education funding this week, although they disagreed on a House plan to phase in a $633 million increase in aid to public schools over three years.

"I don't see any benefit in waiting," said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, who sets his chamber's debate calendar. "The choices aren't going to get any clearer or any easier."

The choices include whether to expand gambling to pay for the additional spending on schools. Both the House plan and a rival Senate plan have no provisions for raising new revenue, and projections show legislators would have to close a budget shortfall starting next year.

Schmidt said his decision on when to debate school finance - and whether senators take up the House plan or something different - will depend on how his colleagues feel. The GOP controls 30 of 40 Senate seats but is divided on education funding.

But Schmidt's timetable has the backing of Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. "I think it would be beneficial for the process for us to try to do something before the end of the week on school finance," he said.

House plan

The House approved its plan Friday. A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans drafted the measure, hoping to satisfy Kansas Supreme Court mandates last year that legislators increase aid to public schools and distribute the dollars more fairly.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, praised the House plan, calling it "a terrific step forward."

"I would happily sign that bill if it came to my desk," she said. "I'm really pleased with the House efforts, and I'm hoping that the Senate looks at that as the framework from which to start their discussion."

Senate leaders drafted a three-year, $660 million plan, but $180 million of the total aid would come from property taxes that local school districts would be required to levy, which all but four districts already do.

Hensley, like Sebelius, favors expanded gambling to pay for education. Earlier this month, the Senate rejected a measure allowing two state-owned casinos and slot machines at three dog and horse tracks, but Hensley believes it should try again.

"Everybody knows that we've got some real problems in the out years, and we're going to have to have revenue," Hensley said. "Gaming becomes, really, the only thing that's on the table that is a reasonable alternative. Right now, people just don't see that."

All-day kindergarten

The House plan funds all-day kindergarten statewide after three years and gives local school boards unlimited authority to increase property taxes after two years if state aid is sufficient to provide a suitable education for every child.

"I don't know as we'll rubber-stamp the House plan," Hensley said. "But I certainly think it's a great place to start."

Sebelius said she likes the all-day kindergarten provision because, "It's one of the best ways to close that learning gap at an early age."

Schmidt noted that the property tax provisions of the House plan were designed to attract Johnson County legislators, whose districts might not fare so well under provisions designed to provide additional dollars to programs that help at-risk children. But, he said, lawmakers from other parts of the state have opposed similar proposals.

Schmidt said of the House plan: "It's extremely large, with some provisions aimed at specific geographical areas that are objectionable to many legislators, and, of course, it's not paid for. Other than that, it's a work of art."


Sigmund 11 years, 9 months ago

In addition to gambling shouldn't Kansas also consider prostitution, pronography, and drugs to help build the states educational institutional infrastructure?

Godot 11 years, 9 months ago

State owned gambling casinos and privatized prisons. Makes sense to me.

benm024 11 years, 9 months ago

"In addition to gambling shouldn't Kansas also consider prostitution, pornography, and drugs to help build the states educational institutional infrastructure?"

Well prostitution is currently illegal in 49 states, so no I think the American people, let alone the bible belt, are not ready for using prostitution as a tax revenue.

Legal drugs (tobacco/alcohol) as well as pornography are already taxed to the hilt.

Gambling on the other hand is widely used all over the US as a way to generate tax revenue while keeping your taxes from going through the roof.

Kansas is doing enough to hurt our kids here in the scientific classrooms of public education. Do we really need to dumb them down further just to please a few bible thumpers?

Kansus we migt be dum but we got ar morels!!!!

Jamesaust 11 years, 9 months ago

We don't need any gimmick tax.

Maybe we can't afford leveling roads, building roundabouts, Sierra Club 'gold star' projects, subsidized potsmoker fines, consultants about consultants, economically unviable golf courses and community activity centers AND paving roads, building sewers and educating children.

Hmm...which should we choose?

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