House GOP school finance proposal ( .PDF )
Topeka The House Republican leadership’s plan to cut public school funding by $172 million will short the Lawrence school district another $1.68 million, according to State Department of Education figures.
But Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, who is chairman of the House committee that recommended the plan, defended it because he said it holds the line on state taxes.
And he said there are provisions in the bill that are good for districts, such as Lawrence.
Those include, he said, measures that would allow local districts to raise property taxes if they wanted to get more funds. One provision would authorize districts to adopt a local activities budget and levy a tax that could be up to 5 percent of state general aid to the district.
These tax funds could be used to help pay for extras, such as sports. They could not be used for classroom costs.
House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence, however, disagreed with Yoder.
He said the provisions that Yoder and other House Republican leaders are touting would “create greater inequities of the school finance formula that will land us back in court.” The GOP plan would cut funding on aid that helps poorer school districts and reduce funding in a wide array of “weightings” for students who are considered at risk of failing.
In 2005, the Kansas Supreme Court declared the school finance system under-funded, unequal and unconstitutional.
The court dismissed the case in 2006 after the Legislature revised the finance formula and approved a $466 million, three-year increase in funding.
But over the past year, the state has cut into those increases. The House GOP plan, which will probably be debated by the full House next week, would reduce school funding by $172 million by not replacing federal stimulus funds that were used this year.
The fight over budget cuts has prompted Schools for Fair Funding, a coalition of more than 70 school districts, to promise to sue the state again. The lawsuit is expected to be filed this summer.
Lawrence school board members, who already have approved $4.6 million in cuts for next school year, have said legislators must increase taxes to keep the board from having to cut deeper.
But Yoder said state taxes are not the answer.
“Kansans are pinching pennies. That’s what state government has to do,” he said.