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Kansas Lawmakers Approve School Funding Proposal

Representative Melissa Rooker speaking to reporters at the Statehouse. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Kansas lawmakers have approved a school funding plan that they say will end the risk of a legal fight closing Kansas schools. The bill is in response to a Supreme Court ruling that says the funding system was unfair to poorer school districts.

Governor Sam Brownback says he will sign the bill.

Democratic Senator Anthony Hensley joined a large bipartisan majority that supported the bill Friday night.

“Regardless of who came up with the plan, what matters is that what we did today was put the children of Kansas first. This is a responsible plan that solves the problem,” said Hensley.

An original proposal cut general school aid and used that money to reduce property tax disparities. A group of lawmakers, including Republican Representative Melissa Rooker, pushed Republican leaders to eliminating the cut to schools.

“The main thing is we protected the classroom, which was the key. The sources of funding are never easy, which ever direction we’re going at this point. I do like that fact that we’ve found a compromise,” said Rooker.

Instead of cutting school aid, the bill that passed will collect money from the sale of the Kansas Bioscience Authority as well as other places in the budget.

If the sale of the Bioscience Authority doesn't provide enough money, the difference will be made up with funding from the Extraordinary Needs Fund. That pool of money is available to help school districts cover costs that aren't accounted for in the education block grant.

While the legislation passed with big majorities, some lawmakers begrudgingly supported it. They said they wanted to avoid school closures but did not approve of the courts overriding a funding law previously approved by lawmakers.


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