Legislature Meets Today To Settle School Funding Issues

Kansas legislators have opened a special session to address a state Supreme Court mandate on education funding and avert a threat that public schools might not reopen next month.

Lawmakers returned today to the Statehouse following negotiations by key Republicans with superintendents from various districts on a $38 million plan for increasing aid to poor school districts.

With the state facing a budget crunch, they were looking at proposals to redistribute existing education dollars. They also hoped to lessen resistance from wealthy districts likely to lose aid, particularly in the affluent Kansas City suburbs of Johnson County.

Republican legislators have unveiled the details of a $38 million plan for helping poor school districts. The House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees introduced separate but identical versions during short meetings at the start of the special session.

The plan helps pay for extra aid to poor school districts by diverting $24 million in existing education funds from districts’ general operating funds, dollars for online courses and money set aside for student enrollment increases or other emergency needs. Other funds for relatively poor school districts would be diverted from other parts of the state budget.

About 150 teachers, parents and other education advocates are rallying at the Kansas Statehouse while legislators are having a special session on school funding.

Attorney John Robb representing four Kansas school districts that are suing the state over education funding says the new plan from Republican lawmakers won’t satisfy the state Supreme Court.

However, two big school districts in Johnson County are reluctantly supporting the school funding plan. Superintendents Todd White and Jim Hinson of the Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission districts told lawmakers today that they’re backing the plan as a one-year solution.

Wichita Superintendent John Allison said his district would not object to the plan as a last resort if lawmakers couldn’t find additional dollars outside education to divert to schools.

Stay tuned to KD-Country 94 and Z-96.3 news for the latest on this developing story.