School funding top focus in 2018 legislative session

TOPEKA, Kan. (CAPITOL BUREAU) – As legislators make their way back to the Capitol City for a new legislative session, many say this session could be the most difficult one yet.

On Monday, Governor Sam Brownback announced he would deliver the State of the State Address next week. The annual address lays out the the Governor’s priorities for the state.

This year Governor Brownback is expected to give his thoughts on the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding education funding.

In July, Brownback announced he would resign after being nominated to serve in an ambassador role for the Trump administration, however his nomination process was stalled and will start from square one this year.

“I think the governor staying in office would be helpful because he is very seasoned, he’s been around for the Gannon decisions and that is the big issue we’re going to have to deal with,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita.

Wagle told reporters Friday, finding a way to pay for K-12 education is the biggest priority this session.

“I think this will be the most difficult session in all my years serving,” she said.

In October, the Supreme Court ruled the state wasn’t spending enough money on schools.

The districts are asking for an additional $600 million.

Although lawmakers are looking at many options, Wagle explained one option she won’t consider is a tax increase.

“My legislators are repulsed by the thought of another tax increase. It’s just not going to happen,” Wagle said.

On Friday, lawmakers on the Legislative Coordinating Council also voted to spend an additional $85,000 to hire two experts to conduct a new school finance study.

“This is a difficult project if you had plenty of time, but we don’t so that means additional experts have to be pulled together as a team to do the work in that shortened time frame,” said House Majority Leader Don Hineman, R-Dighton.

Top democrats said instead of putting money towards new studies, lawmakers need to find solutions.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, I’ve always said that the legislative post-audit study that was done several years ago is a good study and that we should really try to implement it,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.

“They seem to be able to find money for this kind of avoidance is what we’re talking about instead of putting their shoulder to the wheel and doing what’s right for kids in Kansas,” said House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita.

The Supreme Court gave lawmakers an April 30 deadline to have a plan in place for funding, however the State Attorney General’s Office suggests lawmakers have a plan in place by March.

The State of the State Address is scheduled for Tuesday, January 9 at 5 p.m.


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