Senate asks for schools boost



March 28, 2018 - 11:00 PM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have proposed a $500 million increase in school funding to satisfy a state Supreme Court mandate.

The legislation that a House committee advanced Wednesday night would phase in the increase over five years, The Kansas City Star reports. The plan emerged one day after Senate Democrats endorsed a $600 million increase for schools that was rejected by Republican senators. The state’s high court has given lawmakers until April 30 to respond to its ruling that found schools are inadequately funded.

“I think this represents a good-faith effort to try and get our state education system back on track,” said Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Fairway Republican.

Rep. Ed Trimmer, a Winfield Democrat, suggested $500 million may not be enough to satisfy a group of school districts that are suing for additional funding. He noted a study commissioned by legislative leaders released earlier this month that said up to $2 billion more may be needed to improve academic performance.

The study included a range of possible increases, including a $450 million boost. The study authors said that amount would be enough to raise the state’s high school graduation rate to 95 percent, up from 86.9 percent, but would not otherwise improve academic performance.

“I think we’re rolling the dice if we do this,” Trimmer said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many Republicans support the measure. Even the lawmaker who offered the proposal expressed reservations, saying his own projections indicate the Legislature won’t be able to increase funding in other areas if they follow through with the plan.

“I didn’t have the money for a judicial increase. I didn’t have the money for higher education. I didn’t have the money for other things I wanted to do,” said Rep. Steven Johnson, an Assaria Republican.

Senate Republican leaders have previously denounced potential funding increases for education. Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, has said new funding would require a tax increase or significant cuts.