KASB’s Education Daily Roundup for Wed. Feb. 6

Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to increase school funding and balance the budget is coming into conflict with Republican leadership attempts to cut taxes.

On Wednesday, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, helped pushed through a bill that would cut taxes by $190 million in the next fiscal year and more than $400 million over three years. The tax cuts would benefit corporations and those who itemize on their state taxes.

A final vote on SB 22 will be held today in the Senate. If approved, it would go to the House for consideration. Democrats, including Kelly, have said the measure is irresponsible given the state’s tight budget and numerous revenue needs, while Wagle and other supporters of the cut say it will protect Kansas companies and some individual tax filers.

The impact on the state general fund could jeopardize attempts to increase school funding to comply with the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to add an inflation adjustment. KASB has serious concerns about SB 22 and believes the Legislature should first resolve the school finance lawsuit.

Before Senate debate, the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance opened its hearing on SB 44, which would implement Kelly’s K-12 funding plan.

School officials urged passage of the funding plan, saying it would resolve the long running Gannon lawsuit, but Committee Chairwoman Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, said, “We will spend considerable time during the legislative session on this particular bill.”

But Schools For Fair Funding, a coalition of 40 school districts, including the four Gannon plaintiff districts, issued a statement, urging passage of SB 44, saying, “Keep it simple, just fix it.”

Bill Brady, a representative of SFFF, said, “The bill in its current form, without amendments, will solve the Gannon VI issues. SFFF proposes that, if this bill is adopted in its current form, signed by the governor, that the parties simply stipulate to the court that the issue has been resolved, just as they did in 2016 to end the equity portion of the suit. SFFF would only ask that the court retain jurisdiction to see that the out years get implemented and appropriated as planned.”

Brady was joined by school leaders from across Kansas who spoke in favor of the measure, which would phase in $360 million over four years in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to provide an inflation adjustment to the state’s earlier school funding increase.

The five Shawnee County school districts said since the state has the revenue available now it should “fully fund schools to meet the court’s directive.”

Blue Valley USD 229 said adding the inflationary amount to the base “applies the funding most fairly across all districts in a way that provides all K-12 student in Kansas the opportunity to achieve successful outcomes and compete with students in a worldwide economy.”

The hearing on SB 44 will continue next week on Feb. 12 and Feb. 14. KASB, which supports the legislation, is expected to testify next week. Here is a link to that testimony.


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