Topeka A legislative fix to inequities in school funding could negate proposals to increase funding to higher education and all-day kindergarten, Republican legislative leaders say.
"Everything is going to have to be looked at," said Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson.
Last week, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in a long-running school finance case that Kansas' school funding is unconstitutional and ordered legislators to equitably fund statutes that help poor school districts.
When the 2014 legislative session started in January, Gov. Sam Brownback proposed providing state funding to pay for all-day kindergarten. The state currently pays for half-day.
And Brownback proposed restoring some of the cuts to higher education, including Kansas University, that he signed into law last year.
But now a new funding need has arisen. Meeting the court's directive to help poor districts could cost up to $129 million annually, although Republican leaders said there is no specific amount required as they start to craft a state budget.
"It's a political solution as to how you craft the legislation to get adequate votes," Bruce said.
When the decision came down, KNEA President Karen Godfrey called on legislative cooperation for schoolchildren, but predicted political maneuvering. "We don’t need threats to cut funding to vital social services, rob retirement pensions, and cut aid to higher education." Godfrey said.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he believes nothing has to be shortchanged to meet the court's order to equalize the certain funds for public schools.
"If we have to equalize the local option budgets and capital outlay, then the question is where is that money going to come from, and, quite frankly, it very well could come from existing resources," Hensley said.
That would mean lowering the state's ending balance figure for the fiscal year, which is something the Legislature has done frequently.