School funding bill to be addressed next week

WICHITA, Kansas – State lawmakers who will take up the bill to equally fund schools next week will do so without wording in the initial bill, wording that added charter school reforms. The addition was put in at the last minute before it was introduced.

Republican leaders in the state legislature spent the last two weeks negotiating with the Brownback administration on the bill, but the change was not something to which they agreed.

Lawmakers have until July 1 to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling to more equitably fund public schools. State education officials estimate $129 million would help the state comply with the ruling.

Rep. Marc Rhoades, (R) – Newton, said he was responsible for the change, which would ease the standards to open a charter school, and would have them subject to an independent charter school board, allowing private entities who run the schools access to public funds.

“A piece on charter schools was added right before filing at the request of an Appropriations member and I take full responsibility for allowing it to be added,” Rhoades said in a statement to KSN. “The intent was to allow for the debate in the Appropriations Committee, and in no way to undermine negotiations between the House, Senate, and Governor.”

But Democrats are already criticizing the plan.

“They put a bunch of radical education reform ideas in the bill that haven’t had an opportunity to be discussed. Parents, teachers, administrators, higher ed, no one has weighed in on these ideas,” Rep. Jim Ward, (D) – Wichita, said.

The funding plan is up for discussion in Topeka starting on Monday.

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