July 18, 2024

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Kansas House Adopts School Finance Formula

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The Kansas House adopted a school finance formula Thursday. It injects $279 million more into K-12 education in the next two years.

The Kansas House adopted a school finance formula that will pump an additional $279 million of state funding into K-12 education over the next two years on Thursday morning. The Senate will likely debate the legislation next week. House members adopted the bill with a veto-proof majority, 84-39, but House legislators seem pleased with the end result.

Lawmakers are under a Court-ordered deadline to adopt a new school financing formula by June 30, and House Democrats suggested the legislation won’t meet Constitutional muster.

“The funding in this bill is woefully inadequate,” Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, said. He, along with most Democrats, voted against the bill.

Whether the Kansas Supreme Court blesses the finance formula, J.R. Claeys, a Salina Republican, said its resemblance to the previous formula probably means years of litigation in the future. He voted in favor of the legislation.

“It’s largely just a version of the 1992 formula, and I think it will eventually lead to further litigation, because it has all the same issues the old formula had,” Claeys said.

Aspects of the formula have been litigated since 1994.

The 1992 formula and the House approved funding formula include base state aid per pupil and weightings for students based on factors like poverty and bilingual education needs. The House formula sets base state aid at $4,006 per pupil next year and at $4,128 the following year. In future years, base state aid will be tied to inflation.

Claeys says all of the litigation and tinkering with the finance formula don’t address the underlying problem. Today, legislators are wrestling with how to improve outcomes for the bottom 25 percent of students.

“They’re trying to solve a problem with money that often goes back to the involvement of the parent,” Claeys said. “How does a school finance formula solve for one parent who is helping with a student’s math when other parents aren’t. There’s not a mechanism for that. We fool ourselves that the more money we throw at it is going to solve the problem.”

Lawmakers are adjourned for the holiday weekend. They return to Topeka on Tuesday. The Senate is expected to debate the House school funding bill sometime next week.

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