All-day Kindergarten, school funding fight take center stage in State of the State

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

Other Brownback Proposals: 

During Wednesday night's State of The State Address, Governor Sam Brownback said his upcoming budget proposal will include: 

  • Support for the state's universities, community colleges and technical colleges
  • $2 million to address a shortage of housing in rural communities
  • Money for the Rural Bridging Program, aimed at bringing doctors to rural Kansas
  • Development of a comprehensive water strategy to secure Kansas' water future

Stay up-to-date with KAKE News:

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Governor Sam Brownback used is State of the State address to call upon lawmakers to eventually fund the entire cost of all-day Kindergarten and to tell the state's highest court that allocating funds for schools is the Legislature's territory.

Education funding will undoubtedly be among the most-debated issues during the 2014 Legislative Session. A ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court in a lawsuit against the state over school funding will dictate the tone of the education conversation.

Brownback said the state is doing well and can afford to fund education and other initiatives.

"I can report to you that the state of our state is strong and getting stronger and we are leading an American renaissance," Brownback said.

He said the tax policies he proposed and legislators adopted have the state's economy on the road to recovery. That, he said, will help Kansas fund all-day Kindergarten in five years by increasing its contribution $16 million each year.

"Thanks to our growing economy and the work of our Legislature, it is affordable," Brownback said.

Some legislators are not so sure it will be affordable. Democrats criticized Brownback for not providing specifics on how he expects the state to pay the increased costs.

"He talked about things that are hard to disagree with," Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said. "Everybody thinks all-day Kindergarten is a good idea, but he never actually told us where he was going to fund it."

Sen. Michael O'Donnell, R-Wichita, is also eager to see Brownback's plan for funding all-day Kindergarten.

"If we can find it without adding a burden to our budget that's already strained right now, then I'm absolutely supportive of it," O'Donnell said.

With the Supreme Court's decision in a school funding lawsuit due any day, battles over how much to fund public schools and a showdown between the branches of government could soon come along, too.

It is a debate that will be watched closely by parents and teachers of small school districts concerned their districts may be targeted for consolidation.

Sen. Garrett Love, R-Montezuma, was glad Brownback called upon legislators not to allow the forced closure of any Kansas schools.

"He's made that very clear," Love said. "He's not for forced consolidation from Topeka, which I completely agree with."

Brownback foreshadowed the fight that could ensue if the Supreme Court upholds a lower court ruling that the state must increase yearly school funding by $450 million.

"Let us resolve that our schools remain open and are not closed by the courts or anyone else," Brownback said.

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