Kansas lawmakers approve fix for school aid law

Kansas

The Kansas Senate voted to send a bill fixing a multi-million dollar error in the new school finance law to Governor Colyer’s desk. 

On Monday, the Senate passed the bill on a 31 to 8 vote. The House passed the bill on Saturday.

This past Fall, the state Supreme Court ruled schools were not properly funded and gave lawmakers an April 30th deadline to come up with a solution. Recently, the Supreme Court extended the deadline to May 7th. 

In response to the court’s ruling, lawmakers passed a bill adding more than $520 million to schools over the next five years. 

However, after passing that bill, an $80 million error was discovered. If the error went unfixed, school districts would’ve received $80 million less in the first year. The error counted local money in place of state money. 

Lawmakers said the fix doesn’t add any new money to schools, but simply fixes the technical error. 
During the floor debate, many Senators remained skeptical on whether the fix would end the on-going battle with the court. 

“Is it going to solve the problem for the plaintiffs and the Supreme Court? We don’t know yet,” explained State Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg.  “It’s not in our hands after we vote on this.” 

“There are provisions in this bill I don’t like, and I do believe they will be declared unconstitutional,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. “The most prudent approach at this juncture is to vote for the bill and let the court play its role.” 

On Monday, the Senate also spent about an hour debating and passing modifications to its more than $16 billion budget bill. 

The bill includes $18 million to restore cuts made to the state’s universities system in the past. 

However, the Senate’s budget bill does not include the $24.3 million requested by the Department for Children and Families earlier this month. 

DCF said the money would be used for IT updates and projects, as well as employee pay raises. 

DCF also said it was looking to hire 200 unlicensed personnel for child protection jobs. Some lawmakers said it’s unclear if the money DCF is requesting would be used to hire those 200 workers. 

“We didn’t have any information on what jobs and tasks they would be doing, we’re just going to hire a bunch of people. I think we need experienced people out in the field given some of the tragedies that have happened across our state,” said State Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick. “The request came a little bit too late and not enough information.”

The House also passed its budget bill on Saturday, so now a small joint committee will meet and come up with a final budget bill before sending it to the Governor’s desk. 

    

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