What new tax bill means for education funding

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – In the new tax bill, soon to become law, lawmakers factored in an increase of $300 million in the next two years.

It’s a relief for those who have been waiting for more money for schools.

“I would like them to spend it on the teachers,” says parent Sandra Vaumun.

Three years of essentially flat budgets, according to Mark Tallman with the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Tuesday evening, when lawmakers voted to override the governor’s veto for a new tax law, they factored in an increase for school funding.

Nearly $300 million over the next two years.

“It is really a chance to kind of catch up of where we have fallen behind the last few years, not only compared to costs, but compared to most other states,” says Tallman.

Tallman says that increase will help schools pay for more resources, but how much will it help?

“Our piece of the $300 million will be about $25 million,” says Susan Willis, USD 259 Chief Financial Officer.

Willis says the money is nice, but they can’t immediately use it where they want to, like focusing resources for challenged or at-risk children.

Instead, she says, much of that money will go to catching up on costs.

“We are already chewing into that $25 million just to balance the budget, so then the remainder, some of which is very targeted, at-risk programs, bilingual for bilingual students, those funds are not available for general fund use,” says Willis.

Some parents say it’s time the state takes educating kids seriously.

“At the end of the day they are our future. That is our future and I don’t see that they should be able to put a price tag on that,” says Vaumun.

The big question remaining: will it be enough to satisfy the courts? The Kansas Supreme Court demanded that legislators find a constitutional amount of money to fund schools, but didn’t give a number.

Until the court rules, districts like USD 259, are hanging in the balance.

“Certainly the concern is the timeline. We are facing the June 30th date where we don’t have a funding formula,” says Willis.

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