Will the school finance package help students?

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - The Kansas school funding deal now just needs Governor Sam Brownback's signature.  
The $126 million deal, passed by lawmakers late Sunday night, will affect every single Kansas school district, classroom and taxpayer.
Lawmakers passed the financial package by only a couple of votes.

Next school year, Kansas districts will see more money but Kansas students will likely see very little change.

Its millions of dollars given to districts will simply bridge the wealth gap between districts, strips teachers of tenure and due process rights and gives some districts the right to charge taxpayers more than they do now.

The deal is a response to a state Supreme Court ruling that funding disparities between rich and poor schools violated the state constitution.

That means poorer districts like Kansas City, Kan., schools will get more money; KCK will receive about $7 million to help lower taxes on its property owners.

Richer districts like Blue Valley Schools in Johnson County will receive far less. Blue Valley will only receive about $64,000 to lower property taxes across the district.

However, lawmakers gave the school boards in those districts the ability to raise taxes from 31 percent to 33 percent without a vote of the people next year. After that, they would be required to hold a mail-in election to keep the cap at the new level.

The deal did nothing to increase per pupil funding. The state of Kansas will still only pay about $14 more a child next year.
"That's the struggle," Smith said. "We've been dealing with five years of cuts. We're still where we used to be or should be."

KCK schools, which have 90 percent of its students on free and reduced lunches, will get about $2.5 million to spend on its schools.

Third grade teacher Peter Wetzel has been paying about $100 a month out of his own pocket to pay for basic materials in his classroom. He's been teaching in a mobile unit outside of the Frank Rushton Elementary School for three years.

"Some call is Siberia," Wetzel joked, "or the annex. It's the place most don't want to go."

The district hopes to use some of the extra money for additional classrooms or even schools.

"We grew 750 kids this year," Smith said. "That's almost two school buildings which we don't have. We need that additional money."

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