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Attorney For Schools Says Kansas Funding Bill Is Inadequate

Alex Starr
flickr Creative Commons

Kansas legislators worked late hours through the weekend to pass a new school finance bill, but the effort may not be enough to please the state Supreme Court.

The bill, which passed 21-19 in the Senate early Sunday, calls for an increase of $534 million in school funding to be phased in over a period of five years.

It's too little, too slow, critics say.

Alan Rupe, lead attorney for the school districts that sued the state over funding, said the bill doesn't meet the criteria laid out by the Supreme Court and that more funding is still needed.

In a recent study the state funded, an expert determined that to reach a 95 percent graduation rate Kansas would have to increase school funding by $2 billion. This current finance plan provides a quarter of that.

"All the studies pretty much say the same thing ... and the $500 million falls short of that," Rupe said.

Republican Rep. Don Hineman of Dighton said $2 billion is out of the question and that raising $534 million is enough of a challenge as it is.

That recent study forced legislators to have a serious conversation about what results they wanted and what results they could afford, Hineman said, and 95 percent graduation is as out of reach as the $2 billion it would require.

Besides the $534 being too little, Rupe said, the five year timetable is too long. Inflation will consume $70 to $100 million a year, he said.

Republican Rep. Don Hineman of Dighton said there's no way to phase in funding in fewer than five years with current revenue, and there is "absolutely no appetite for raising taxes within the legislature," he said.

Supporters, including Gov. Jeff Colyer, believe that annual growth in tax revenues will cover the cost.

Rupe said the legislature's refusal to raise taxes to finance education is setting the plan up for failure.

"If you always do what you've always done, you're going to get what you've always got," Rupe said.

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