Clock ticking for lawmakers to adequately fund schools

USD 259 Schools Superintendent

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – If lawmakers do not come up with a plan to adequately fund schools by June 30, the Kansas Supreme Court could shut down schools.

Many school leaders have said they believe that will never happen.

But, as lawmakers still have not arrived at a funding plan, some are wondering if schools could close.

“What’s being discussed (by lawmakers) right now, who knows where the courts will land on this?” asks USD 259 Superintendent John Allison. “So there’s just a lot of unknowns and there’s a lot of consequences if we get to that point.”

Allison says only a couple of months ago, he says he did not have a high level of concern. That has changed. And, some other school leaders agree, it could happen.

“I’m beginning to think it’s going to happen,” says Barb Fuller, USD 259 school board member. “The (Kansas) House has an idea, the Senate has an idea, and nobody wants to sit around and agree and do what’s best for kids. I think it’s going to be serious if we don’t have money on the 30th of June.”

Some lawmakers on Monday did unveil a plan to balance the budget, and come up with a finance plan for the state. Kansas still needs to find hundreds of millions to balance the current budget plan.

“We are going to be confident that we’re not going to spend more than we bring in, and we would welcome a vote on spending cuts,” says Chuck Weber, Wichita House member. “And what house and senate Republicans today are saying is, there’s a different way that we can go about this. We can balance the budget by freezing spending, and not taxing people of Kansas.”

Many Democrats and some Republicans in the House have said this year, they favor a plan to bring back a tax on businesses to help balance the budget. Others have said Kansas has cut too many services since 2012 when tax breaks were handed out to businesses.

But, while lawmakers debate a plan to balance the Kansas budget, some point out there is no debate on a school finance plan. And the clock is ticking.

Allison says he was in Topeka on Friday, talking to lawmakers.

“The latest funding effort talks… that funding doesn’t even bring us back to where we were in 2009 and 2010,” says Allison. “I think there’s some serious questions whether the courts will find that to be adequately funding public education or not.”

Any plan lawmakers hammer out will still have to be approved by Governor Sam Brownback. The courts also have to approve whether or not the funding mechanism is adequate.

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