In his second major speech in two weeks, Gov. Jeff Colyer addressed what he called “the elephant in the room.” The new Governor outlined what details he would like to see in a school funding bill during a speech to lawmakers on Feb. 7.
“First, we must keep our schools open,” Colyer said.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the state’s existing school finance formula and gave lawmakers an April 30 deadline to craft a new one. Though the Court’s opinion didn’t threaten to close schools, Justices have suggested they might close schools in previous school funding rulings.
“Second, we need a definitive solution that ends school finance lawsuits for good,” Colyer told lawmakers.
He noted that the last 10 Governors, including five Democrats and five Republicans, have governed with the specter of school funding lawsuits hanging over their heads.
“This must end now,” he said.
Colyer’s speech was light on the specifics of how he hopes to end the school finance wars, but he said increased school funding should be phased in without creating additional tax burdens for Kansas families.
That will be difficult to do, according to Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute.
“A phase-in might be accomplished without a tax increase this year, but a tax increase is on the way unless overall spending is reduced as the budget is already out of balance in Fiscal Year 2020,” Trabert said following the speech.
Officials estimate a new funding formula will need to inject another $600 million into public schools to meet the Court’s muster. Colyer didn’t mention a specific dollar amount he would send to schools. However, the Governor said he will insist on a funding formula that included measures for improved outcomes.
“Absent real accountability measures, which Governor Colyer alluded to today, students won’t benefit from higher spending,” Trabert said.