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Kansas State Legislature Meets to Fix K-12 Funding

The Kansas State legislature is starting its spring session early this year, trying to fix the long-lasting K-12 funding controversy.

Some members will begin to meet today to develop a new financial plan.

Kansas legislators are scrambling to fix the state’s school finance formula. This comes after the state Supreme Court ruled the proposed budget is unconstitutional, saying a raise of $485 million over the next two years was not enough.

Lawrence School Board President Shannon Kimball says the teachers have taken the largest hit when it comes to cuts in school funding. She says more money would allow the board to do two important things for its teachers.

“It would allow us to give them pay increases, which have been very minimal over the last few years. In addition to that we would like to be able to spend more money for professional development for our teachers, which is hugely important,” said Shannon Kimball.

Kansas State Democratic Representative Dennis Highberger says the Supreme Court did not give the legislature a precise amount to raise, but the minimum will be around $200 million per year.

“We are getting better revenue results than we anticipated so far this year, so that will help make up some of the difference, but I think we are going to still have to find some money from somewhere, and I have no idea where that is going to be,” said Dennis Highberger.

Kansas State Republican Representative Tom Sloan says he believes the legislature will look at small revenue enhancement opportunities. He says without more money, state colleges and universities will also take a hit.

“Failing to get new revenues, I expect higher education will again get less than adequate funding, and we will continue to delay or defer our contribution to the state retirement plan,” said Tom Sloan.

Kimball says the board will present its official legislative agenda the week before the official session resumes in January.

“I hope they will take the Supreme Court’s direction and think carefully about how they can revise the current school finance formula to better meet the directors the court has said the legislature needs to meet. And truly attempt to achieve both adequacy and equity rather than yet another Band-Aid on the problem,” said Kimball.

Since 2018 is an election year, both Sloan and Highberger say most representatives will not support any form of tax increase as a way to raise that money.