Kansas lawmakers pass governor’s school aid plan

Capitol Bureau

Kansas legislators have approved Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan for increasing public school funding in hopes of satisfying a court mandate.

The vote Thursday in the GOP-controlled House was 76-47. The Senate approved the measure on a 31-8 vote to send it to Kelly. She is expected to sign it.

“The Kansas Legislature took an important step today towards addressing the needs of our students, supporting our teachers and fully funding our schools. I’m proud this reasonable, commonsense plan was embraced with bipartisan support today. Kansans want their leaders to work together to move our state forward,” said Gov. Kelly. “By investing in our local schools, we can ensure that all Kansas children – no matter who they are or where they live – have the opportunity to succeed.”

“It will go to the governor who will sign it, and then the lawyers will take it over across the street on April 15 and argue the legal merits,” said Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita.

The bill ties Kelly’s proposal to increase spending on public schools by roughly $90 million to several education policy changes favored by GOP lawmakers.

Kelly pushed her funding proposal as a way to end a protracted education funding lawsuit.

Four school districts sued the state over education funding in 2010. The Kansas Supreme Court said in an order last year that a 2018 law promising additional funding increases wasn’t sufficient because it hadn’t accounted for inflation.

Senate President Susan Wagle says this could be the beginning of the end of school finance litigation.

“We are hopeful this bill solves the litigation we’ve had in the Supreme Court with the Gannon case for several years,” she said.

Mark Tallman, Associate Executive Director with the Kansas Association of School Boards, says Senate Bill 16 could go a long way in ending many questions associated with the Gannon case.

“This creates a good chance that it resolves the Gannon case if the legislation continues funding throughout (next four years), and we won’t know for sure until the court rules on it,” said Tallman. “The oral arguments are due in early May. We would expect a decision several weeks to a month after that.”

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