Clock winding down on school finance deadline

Capitol Bureau

A deadline for Kansas lawmakers to develop a school funding plan is fast approaching.  

On Thursday, a new peer review gave lawmakers validation that more money is needed to properly fund schools.  

With a month until the Kansas Supreme Court’s deadline, lawmakers are working quickly trying to find a way to pay for schools. 

 “This is a short period of time to get this finished,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. 

A new study conducted by Dr. Lori Taylor earlier this month showed it could cost up to $2 billion to properly fund schools. The study was tied to performance benchmarks, such as having a 95 percent graduation rate. 

“You probably cannot do that without spending more,” said Jesse Levin, a researcher at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C.

Levin was brought in to review the Taylor study. He agreed more money could help with student achievement, but said it wasn’t a guarantee. 

“There is some good evidence out there that spending more actually does work,”  Levin told lawmakers. 

Levin’s review came less than 24 hours after Republicans in the House unveiled their funding plan which increases school funding by $500 million over five years. 

“I think this is a good discussion point right now,” Governor Jeff Colyer said. 

The governor added the Houses’ plan meets his expectations.  

“Number one, we do not intend to raise taxes. Number two, we want to make sure schools are not closed,” said Colyer. 

Republican Senators said they were waiting on Levin’s review before starting to craft their own plan. 

“We’re going to be focusing on research based outcomes and really targeting those bookends, those kids right before they start school and those right before they are finishing school,” explained State Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg. 

Hensley said the new study and review has wasted time and money. He said the legislature should’ve updated the Legislative Post Audit school finance study conducted in 2006. 

 “The LPA updated is $700 million and the out of state expert study is $2 billion. So the legislature would have been far better off if they had just updated the Legislative Post Audit study which is a much more realistic number,” Hensley said. 

The House is expected to debate its school funding plan next week. 

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