Brownback proposes $600 million school funding increase over five years

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday said his budget recommendation will include an additional $600 million for schools over five years and no tax increase.

In his last State of the State address, Brownback also called for a constitutional amendment to “stop the never-ending cycle of litigation on school finance.”

Many legislators and education advocates said they looked forward to hearing the details of the governor’s proposals, which will be released Wednesday.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled the school finance system inadequate and inequitable and given the Legislature until April 30 to provide a remedy.

Last year, the Legislature approved a $300 million increase over two years. The court didn’t say how much school funding should be increased, but noted a State Board of Education request for nearly $900 million over two years.

On Tuesday, Brownback devoted a sizable portion of his speech to public school education with many of his remarks echoing the State Board of Education’s mission to focus on post-secondary student success.

He said he wants the State Board to work on increasing the high school graduation rate to 95 percent and he said 75 percent of students should continue education after graduation.

The high school graduation rate in Kansas is 86.9 percent and fewer than half of Kansas students achieve a postsecondary degree or certificate six years after graduation.

In addition, Brownback said he wants Kansas average teacher pay to be higher than all surrounding states and that 150 more school counselors and school psychologists should be hired by next year.
Kansas teacher pay ranks 42nd in the nation and in the past year many schools have beefed up their number of counselors to help students.

Brownback also said he wants — at no cost to parents — Kansas high schools to offer at least 15 credit hours of dual credit coursework and the choice for every student of taking the ACT or Work Keys. Many high schools already have implemented or are working on such proposals.

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