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Kansas Lawmakers Pass School Funding Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved an increase in spending on the state's public schools in hopes of meeting a Kansas Supreme Court mandate on education funding. Their rancorous final days of debate highlighted deep divisions among top Republicans. Governor Jeff Colyer publicly endorsed a bill that would phase in a $534 million increase in education funding over five years. He sided with House GOP leaders who largely drafted it. The Senate's GOP leaders favored a plan to phase in a $274 million increase over the same five years. They argued that the bigger plan approved early Sunday and sent to Colyer would force lawmakers to raise taxes within two years. The votes were 21-19 in the Senate and 63-56 in the House.

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The Latest -- 12:26 a.m. Sunday

Kansas legislators have given their final approval to an increase in spending on the state's public schools.  The Senate approved a bill early Sunday to phase in a $534 million increase in education funding over five years. The vote was 21-19. The House approved the bill on a 63-56 vote. The measure goes to Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer, who has already endorsed it publicly. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current education funding of more than $4 billion a year isn't sufficient. Many Democrats said the plan will not satisfy the court. Senate GOP leaders backed a plan to phase in a $274 million increase. They said the bigger plan will eventually force a tax increase.

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The Lates -- 10:40 p.m. Saturday

The Kansas Senate is debating a proposal to increase spending on public schools in hopes of meeting a state Supreme Court mandate. Senators were moving toward a final vote late Saturday or early Sunday on a bill that would phase in a $534 million education funding increase over five years. But majority Republicans were split over the measure and some of them were harshly criticizing the bill. The measure is similar to a plan the House passed earlier in the week, and it approved the new plan Saturday on a 63-56 vote. Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer endorsed it as well. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current funding of more than $4 billion a year is insufficient.

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The Latest -- 8:12 p.m. Saturday

The Kansas Legislature's work on a plan for increasing school funding has stalled with tempers rising among Republicans. The state Senate had not acted by Saturday evening on a bill that would phase in a $534 million increase in education funding over five years. The House passed it earlier Saturday on a 63-56 vote. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current funding of more than $4 billion a year is insufficient. Senators were having a lengthy debate over another bill rewriting income tax laws to head off the possibility that changes in federal tax laws last year might cause some Kansas residents to pay more state taxes. They suspended the debate to pass a resolution allowing lawmakers to meet past Saturday. But the move angered some Republicans.

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The Latest -- 6:50 p.m. Saturday

Dozens of teachers have converged on the Kansas Statehouse to lobby for passage of a plan to increase spending on public schools. The Kansas National Education Association organized lobbying Saturday evening in favor of a bill that would phase in a $534 million increase in education funding over five years. It is the state's largest teachers' union. The House passed the bill Saturday on a 63-56 vote, but the Senate had yet to debate it. Supporters feared senators might not take it up. Senate GOP leaders were critical of the plan. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current funding of more than $4 billion a year is insufficient. KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti said the plan is probably the best that legislators can pass.

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The Latest -- 2:50 p.m. Saturday

A conservative Kansas lawmaker is suggesting that problems facing public schools aren't a matter of money but a shift away from God in recent decades. Republican Representative Randy Garber, of Sabetha, argued Saturday during a 13-minute speech on a school funding bill that problems with society and public education stem from U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960s declaring school-sponsored prayer and Bible reading unconstitutional. Garber concluded his speech by telling his colleagues: "If we don't fix society, we won't fix our schools." He added, "I say the way to fix our schools is to put prayer and the Bible back and give it a chance." House Democratic Leader Jim Ward of Wichita called Garber's remarks "disappointing" and that providing a good public education is "hard work."

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The Latest -- 1:35 p.m. Saturday

The Kansas House has approved an education funding proposal that's designed to break an impasse among Republican lawmakers over boosting spending on public schools. The vote Saturday was 63-56. The bill would phase in a $534 million increase in education funding over five years and is similar to a plan approved by the House earlier this week. The bill goes next to the Senate for an up-or-down vote that could send it to Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer. He has endorsed the proposal. The Senate previously approved a plan to phase in a $274 million funding increase over five years. Lawmakers are considering an education funding increase in response to a state Supreme Court ruling in October that the state's current funding of more than $4 billion a year is insufficient.

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The Latest -- 10:45 a.m. Saturday

Some Republican lawmakers in Kansas are trying to break an impasse over increasing funding for public schools to meet a court mandate. GOP leaders in the House said they are hoping to have their chamber pass a new plan that's close to one the chamber passed earlier to phase in a roughly $520 million increase in education funding over five years. If the House can pass the new plan, it would go to the Senate for a single, up-or-down vote to determine whether the measure goes to Republican Governor Jeff Colyer. The Senate previously approved a plan to phase in a $274 million education funding increase over five years. The state Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current funding of more than $4 billion a year is insufficient.

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The Latest -- 12:05 a.m. Saturday

Big differences among Republican lawmakers over how much to increase spending on Kansas' public schools are forcing them to work the weekend. They are under pressure Saturday to pass a plan that will satisfy a state Supreme Court mandate. House and Senate negotiators held several rounds of talks Friday afternoon and evening to resolve the differences between their rival education funding plans. But the talks broke off Friday night when it became clear that the negotiators weren't getting closer to agreeing on how much to spend. The House plan would phase in a roughly $520 million increase in education funding over five years. The Senate's figure is $274 million. The state Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current funding of more than $4 billion a year is insufficient.
 

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