KS lawmakers break for holiday weekend without tax plan or school funding finalized

Posted at 10:47 AM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 20:12:06-04

Before breaking for the Memorial Day weekend, Kansas lawmakers passed a school finance bill out of the House that would increase spending by $280 million over the next two years. 

The vote was 84-39, with many lawmakers still expressing doubt. 

“I express concern we aren’t at the level the court is looking for but we have to get moving," said Representative Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway.) 

The bill would increase spending by $180 million next year and $278 million the year after. It also establishes a new per-student formula for distributing aid to those students at risk of dropping out. 

For example, under the current House version, the state would fund all-day kindergarten and allocate more money towards early childhood education. 

“Yes, there are percentages for bilingual, at risk and other factors and I think that is very important,” said Sen. Pat Pettey, (D-Kansas City, Kansas.) “But it is the total package I think the Supreme Court is going to look at.” 

In March, the Kansas State Supreme Court ruled the state’s education funding in inadequate. In their ruling, they gave lawmakers until June 30 to come up with a new school funding formula.

The court did not set a figure for how much the state’s aid must rise but attorneys representing the four school districts that sued said it is much more than $250 million. 

And some lawmakers agree. 

“I came into this thinking more is needed. I have my doubts but I am ready to help move this process along,” said Rooker. 

The House’s version will now go to the Senate, which has been working on their own school finance formula. The senate’s version is similar to the house’s except it phases in $240 million over the next two years. 

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Topeka. They still have to solve a budget shortfall and are gridlock on a new tax plan. 

Every day they spend in Topeka is now considered “overtime,” since the legislature only budgeted for 100 days. According to those at the capitol, each overtime day costs $43,000. 

Thursday was considered day 101.

During their 4-day break, no one will be paid.