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Kansas Senate Advances New Plan For Funding Schools

Stephen Koranda
Senate President Susan Wagle presides over a debate earlier this year.

Kansas Senators have approved a plan for funding K-12 schools. The 23-14 vote sends the bill to the House for consideration.

The proposal would increase spending by around $230 million over two years, after the state Supreme Court ruled in March that Kansas schools are inadequately funded.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning helped draft the plan and believes it will satisfy the justices.

“We did the due diligence. We reasonably calculated. We did everything according to what the Supreme Court wanted us to do. I think the product is as good as it’s going to get coming out of this chamber,” Denning said.

The top Democrat in the chamber, Senator Anthony Hensley, doesn’t believe the bill adds enough new money for schools and might mean a special session is needed.

“I think the court is going to declare the funding as inadequate and declare it unconstitutional and it will come back to the Legislature,” Hensley says.

Republican Sen. Barbara Bollier isn't sure about the funding but says she supported the plan because she likes the portions related to education policy, including the way it distributes money.

“I can’t second guess if they think this is a constitutional amount of funding or not. In the interim, I want the policy in place that is good," Bollier said.

The bill would provide a base amount of money per pupil and then add additional funding for factors such as the number of low-income students.

House members have approved a similar plan that adds some additional funding. The two chambers will now work to hammer out differences between the bills.

Stephen Koranda is the managing editor of the Kansas News Service, based at KCUR. He has nearly 20 years of experience in public media as a reporter and editor.