Kansas Democrats Offering School Finance Plan

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

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UPDATE: Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Democrats said Tuesday that they want to spend some of the state's expected revenue surplus to restore funding to Kansas public schools that has been cut in recent years.

The plan calls for increasing school funding by $45 million in the 2012-13 school year, $45 million more in 2013-14 and $90 million more in 2014-15. Democrats said the increases would raise the base aid per student from the current $3,780 to $4,047 by 2015.

The proposal is in stark contrast to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's desire to rewrite the school finance formula and place
more responsibility for education funding on local boards of education.

"There is no reason to overhaul a school finance formula that has already withstood the muster of the Kansas Supreme Court," said House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence. "The Legislature simply needs to hold up its end of the bargain and fund the formula properly."

The governor's staff recently outlined its new school finance formula, the first major revision in nearly two decades. The governor's staff said Brownback's proposed budget will include an additional $24 million during the current fiscal year and $21 million during fiscal 2013 to keep base state aid for public schools at the current $3,780 per pupil.

Democrats say their plan is a better alternative to the Brownback proposal for several reasons, including the governor's desire to eliminate so-called weighting factors that send additional funds to districts based on demographics.

They also argue that state spending on schools will be capped at the 2012-13 funding level and districts would be forced to raise local property taxes to keep up with rising costs. Democrats said that those increases might not improve education but only allow school districts to keep up with inflation.

Brownback also is planning to announce a tax package that is expected to call for reductions in income taxes for businesses and
individuals, part of his plan to improve the state's economic climate. Democrats said the priority is misplaced.

"Republicans want to give our surplus revenue to corporations who already aren't paying their fair share," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka. "Democrats value public education, and we want the state budget to reflect that by using extra state revenue to make an investment in our children's future."

In addition, Democrats want to restore a program that sends revenue to cities and counties to lower property tax rates. They propose giving local governments $45 million in the coming year, also from the state's reserves.

Legislators eliminated the revenue-sharing program with cities and counties in 2004 as they sought to balance the state budget in the wake of a recession.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Democrats in the Kansas Legislature are rolling out a proposal for funding public schools as the 2012 session gets under way.

Details were to be released Tuesday at news conferences in Johnson County and Topeka. Democratic leaders noted in announcing the news conferences that Kansas school districts have faced funding cuts in recent years.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence, has said that some of the surplus revenue the state has collected this year should go toward restoring some of the cuts.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing that the state rewrite the current funding formula to give school districts more authority to raise revenue. Brownback is also expected to propose modest increases in state funding when he announces his budget plan later this week.

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