KS Lawmakers Debate School Funding

KS Lawmakers Debate School Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas legislators planned to discuss a short-term education funding fix Thursday to satisfy the state Supreme Court while also debating longer-term proposals for curbing the court's power to force school finance changes.

The House and Senate Judiciary committees were convening for joint hearings on both issues. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback called a special session of the GOP-dominated Legislature for June 23 to address a Supreme Court decision last month that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts.

The court warned that public schools might remain closed across the state if legislators do not rewrite school finance laws by June 30. Many Republican legislators were angered, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King promised to outline a proposed amendment to state constitution to prevent the courts from threatening to close schools in the future.

But a proposed constitutional change would have to go before voters for their approval — and they wouldn't weigh in until the November election. In the meantime, Brownback is pushing a proposal to boost education funding by $38 million for 2016-17 to help poor school districts.

"You can't resolve the issue we have in front of us just with a constitutional amendment," King said ahead of the meeting. "You have to have a school finance fix."

Kansas has been in and out of legal battles over education funding for nearly three decades, and the latest round began with a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, school districts.

The state provides more than $4 billion a year in aid to its 286 local school districts, but the court ruled in February that poor districts weren't getting their fair share. GOP lawmakers responded by rewriting school finance laws, but the revisions didn't change the amount of aid most districts would receive. The court then rejected some of the changes.

(KA)