Topeka — A Senate committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would increase funding to public schools by $112 million over two years.
Half of the funding would go toward increasing base state aid by $37 per student for each of the next two years.
That would increase base state aid from $3,780 per student to $3,817 per student in the next school year and from $3,817 per student to $3,854 per student the year after that. The other half of the funding would go toward equalizing state assistance to help poor districts.
Senate Bill 450 emerged from the Senate Education Committee with Republican and Democratic votes but lost support from Johnson County legislators after a key proposal they wanted was removed.
That proposal would have allowed local school districts to increase property taxes for schools from 31 percent of state financial aid of the district to 35 percent over two years.
Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, argued that the current 31 percent cap on local property taxes should remain.
“I don’t think we have climbed out of our recession yet,” Wagle said, adding that Kansans are concerned about property taxes.
But Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, said Johnson County schools were being held back because they had hit the local property tax cap and were willing, but unable, to increase property taxes any further for schools.
“It’s time that you give us a break,” Owens said. But Wagle’s amendment to keep the cap prevailed.
Funding for the bill would come from the state’s projected ending balance for the next fiscal year, which is currently expected to be about $390 million.
The legislation, which now goes to the full Senate, is vastly different from a school finance overhaul being pushed by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican.
Brownback has proposed revamping the finance formula to eliminate state limits on local property taxes for education. His plan also includes no increase in base state aid per pupil for the next school year and would junk the current system of providing additional funding, or weights, for specific educational circumstances, such as teaching children who have not yet learned English.