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Archive for Wednesday, May 3, 2006

House rejects school finance plan

May 3, 2006

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— A three-year, $532.7 million school finance plan failed today in the House, thwarting Republican efforts to limit the scope of negotiations over the final version of legislation designed to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court mandate.

The vote was 69-55 against the bill, which had the backing of Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, and other GOP leaders.

The Senate has approved a plan to phase in a $541 million increase in spending on public schools over three years. In March, a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans forced a three-year, $633 million plan through the House.

Mays and other GOP leaders could have initiated talks last week with the Senate over the final version of school finance legislation. But they wanted to have another debate, hoping to narrow the scope of the discussions - and ultimately the size of any final plan.

Both chambers would rely on existing state revenues to fund their proposals, though budget projections show the third year could cause the state to exhaust all available revenues and be faced with a deficit, something prohibited by state law. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the state wasn't spending enough on its public schools or distributing the dollars fairly.

Three senators and three House members planned to begin negotiations this afternoon.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Jean Schodorf, her chamber's lead negotiator, said delaying talks for several days was "wasting time, doing nothing."

"We've got to get something passed," said Schodorf, R-Wichita. "It tells me there is not a coalition anywhere now for any plan in the House."

The Senate plan, the House plan approved in March and the House plan rejected Wednesday all contained additional aid to all school districts, plus new dollars for programs helping children at risk of academic failure. All three also assume an estimated $75 million in new contributions to teacher pensions.

The House had a daylong debate on school finance issues Tuesday, with a series of close votes on various options.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has endorsed the plan approved by the House in March. Critics of the bill rejected Wednesday thought it was too small and didn't follow a court-mandated education study released in January.

"Unfortunately, this bill shortchanges the future of our children," said Rep. Judy Loganbill, D-Wichita.

Johnson County legislators were key players in the debate, though their schools would benefit relatively little from provisions designed to help poor and minority students. They were seeking greater authority for school districts to raise local property taxes to supplement their state aid.

Under state law, during the 2006-07 year, local school boards will be permitted to increase property taxes to raise up to 29 percent of their general fund budgets.

The bill rejected Wednesday would have increased that figure to 30 percent, then allowed it to rise to 33 percent in 2007-08. The coalition plan approved in March was even more generous, eliminating the cap in 2008-09 if the court determined state aid to be adequate.

The Senate plan keeps the figure at 29 percent.

Mays warned Johnson County legislators who held out for greater taxing authority, "If you insist on getting everything you want, inevitably you get nothing."

Besides alienating some Democrats and moderate Republicans, the bill that failed Wednesday struck a few conservative GOP members as too rich.

But Rep. Bill Otto, R-LeRoy, noted that an improving economy continues to generate growing tax revenues.

"If the budget fairy continues to deliver money, we can fund this bill without a tax increase," Otto said.

Comments

rhd99 8 years, 7 months ago

DOUG MAYS & REPUBLICANS, thanks to you all, public schools in Kansas are FAILING! Take your political rhetoric & SHOVE IT, you two-faced REPUBLICAN politicians!

johngalt 8 years, 7 months ago

So, exactly how is $10,000 per student not doing enough for Kansas K12?

bmwjhawk 8 years, 7 months ago

False.

And...

How much do you suggest?

RonBurgandy 8 years, 7 months ago

Another brilliant move in the kansas state legislature.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 7 months ago

This drama illustrates quite nicely the three political parties in Kansas:

The democrats, who still hold on in vain to the notion that government should be about helping the less-fortunate (they generally oppose the ability of wealthy Johnson County to raise their own funds for schools).

The moderate republicans who want to make sure that they get theirs (by raising tax revenue locally for their schools).

The right-wing republicans, nihilists who don't think the government should spend money on anything at all as far as I can tell.

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