Kansas education funding up in the air amid ‘school choice’ expansion failure

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Education spending in Kansas is in limbo after a week of debates surrounding the state’s education budget.

The main legislative session closed last week, with some conservative lawmakers pushing to pass proposals to use state tax dollars earmarked for public education to allow low-income students to attend private schools. Some have referred to the proposals as “school choice” or “school voucher” bills.

“Districts are hoping to continue to recover from budgets we lost in the past,” said Mark Tallman, a spokesperson for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Tallman told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau on Monday that, while ‘school choice’ proposals have garnered some support among lawmakers, with close votes in both the House and Senate, the plans could strip public schools of the money they need.

“We don’t want to be in a position where schools, or the governor, or others have to choose between funding that agreement and accepting some things that we also think will be very detrimental,” he said.

The state’s education budget has gradually increased after decades of court battles to boost school spending.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s legislative adjustments to education funding were equitable. The court said the state was on track to provide adequate education by 2022.

Tallman said what lies ahead for the upcoming year is still uncertain, as districts across the state are waiting to figure out what they’ll have to work with.

“The longer it takes for the legislature to resolve this, the longer it is before schools will really know what their funding will be like for next year.”

Lawmakers have a few weeks to decide on the state’s education budget when they return in May for a veto session. It’s uncertain whether debates about “school choice” measures will pick back up.

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