Lawmakers to tackle K-12 funding after break

Local

TOPEKA, Kan. (CAPITOL BUREAU) – Lawmakers are on break until the middle of the week, and when they return, the discussion over paying for schools is expected to heat up.

The Supreme Court’s deadline for lawmakers to come up with a solution for paying for schools is a little over two months away.

“That’s obviously the biggest issue this session and we’re approaching some deadlines,” explained State Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka.

Before leaving for the long weekend, some lawmakers questioned why K-12 funding hasn’t been a top priority so far this legislative session.

“Not only am I frustrated, people in both parties, responsible legislatures cannot understand why in the world we’ve been sitting around on our hands doing nothing,” said State Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita.

In October, the state’s high court ruled lawmakers weren’t adequately paying for schools. The districts involved in the lawsuit have asked for an additional $600 million.

“As responsible legislatures, we can’t ignore the other functions of state government that folks really depend on,” explained House Majority Leader Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton.

One of those functions House budget committee chairman Troy Waymaster points to is higher education.

“They sustained a four percent cut two years ago and now they’re asking for that four percent cut to be reinstated, well that’s going to prove difficult if we have to address K-12 education and try to make the cuts whole again,” said Waymaster.

Republican leaders hired an out-of-state expert to conduct a school finance study. Part of the study was presented to lawmakers this past Friday. The final results of the study will be presented to lawmakers mid-March.

“This is a delaying tacit, it is a tool being used by the leadership here to force Senators and Representatives at the last minute to vote for a bad solution,” said Carmichael.

The Supreme Court gave lawmakers an April 30 deadline to come up with a funding solution.


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