Archive for Wednesday, May 3, 2006

House supports $533M for schools

May 3, 2006


— The House advanced a three-year, $533 million increase for schools Tuesday that would require the Kansas Supreme Court to dismiss the ongoing school finance lawsuit.

The 63-62 vote came after a daylong debate that saw proposals rise and fall by razor-thin margins.

Another vote is needed today, and if the plan is approved, it will probably go to a House-Senate conference committee.

Asked if the plan was constitutional, House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, said, "Who knows? There's no way to tell."

The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered increases in school funding after ruling that the finance system is unconstitutional because it shortchanges all students, especially those in low-income districts.

Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, pushed for the plan, saying, "This is a balanced, affordable approach that actually has a chance of becoming law." Supporters said it could be funded through expected growth in tax revenues.

How they voted

Here is the vote by local House members on the proposal to increase school funding by $533 million during the next three years if the Kansas Supreme Court dismisses the school finance lawsuit. The proposal was adopted 63-62. ¢ Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, no ¢ Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, yes ¢ Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, no ¢ Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin, no ¢ Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, no ¢ Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, no ¢ Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, yes

But opponents said parts of the measure were mean-spirited. One provision in the O'Neal plan would require that the state Supreme Court dismiss the pending lawsuit before the second and third year appropriations to schools would be made.

"That just inflames the situation," House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg said. "It is just a poke in the eye of the plaintiff school districts."

Earlier in the day, Democrats and a number of Republicans, by a 63-61 vote, pushed through a three-year, $633 million plan that would have phased in all-day kindergarten.

Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, voted for the larger plan, saying it did the best job of following an education cost study that said the state needs to significantly increase funding for low-income students.

"It's a question of whether we want to openly defy the court's ruling and force a special session, or whether we want to truly solve the problem," Davis said.

But Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, voted against the larger plan, saying it would have increased pressure for a tax increase. The smaller plan actually was better for his constituents' school districts in the way it distributed funds, he said.

A major point of contention will be about the House plan allowing local districts to raise property taxes to supplement funding. In addition, 17 high cost-of-living school districts, including Lawrence, will be able to increase local taxes to pay teachers more.

Many lawmakers have said increasing the ability to raise local taxes further widens the gap between rich and poor districts. A proposed three-year, $541 million plan approved by the Senate doesn't allow any increased local taxing authority.


dmbland 11 years, 10 months ago

I am a native to Lawrence. I would love nothing more than to move back to Lawrence or another close by city. However, as a teacher, I look for competitive pay. I currently teach near Houston, TX (sigh) because new teachers start out at nearly 40K per year. Until KS can come close to meeting that pay range many highly qualified teachers will continue to look for work elsewhere. I know that is true for me, my wife, and several of our friends who we attended college with.

Todd 11 years, 10 months ago

dmbland, what do you think of the alternative certification program in Texas? Are the teachers you meet without a degree in education as good?

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