The debate over properly funding schools is heating up at the Kansas Capitol as the clock winds down on lawmakers to find a solution to satisfy the Supreme Court.
The issue of properly funding schools has plagued the state for decades.
“We need to stop distracting ourselves with things like the constitutional amendment efforts that are going on around here and we need to get down to work,” said gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka. “We need to make sure whatever we do this year, that we end our time in court now.”
Whoever is elected Governor in November will have to deal with the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“We have the revenue stream right now to deal with the court’s decision. We should do that and then focus on how we should get this economy growing,” explained Republican candidate Jim Barnett.
A new school finance study revealed it could cost $2 billion on the high end to pay for schools. On the low end it could cost $451 million.
“I think the massive hikes that the report called for and the Supreme Court called for are unwarranted,” Secretary of State Kris Kobach said as he kicked off his gubernatorial campaign.
Former Governor Sam Brownback told the legislature during his State of the State Address to put an additional $600 million toward schools.
“We’ve got a lot of numbers and that’s one of the problems, trying to sort through all the numbers with the goal being not just having a number, but it actually has an impact on the quality of education our kids get,” said Democratic candidate State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita.
Candidates in all parties agree finding a long-term funding solution is the goal.
A spokesman for Independent candidate Greg Orman, said Orman will be releasing his policy plans in the coming weeks. The spokesman added “The fact is the state’s next Governor will be faced with a different set of challenges around education than what we’re seeing today, and like all Kansans, Greg expects the Legislature to do its job and comply with the order of the Kansas Supreme Court.”
Democratic candidate Josh Savty was touring the state Thursday, but said in a statement any plan to fix school funding would need to be a multi-year plan.
“My goal as Governor is to work with, not against, a Legislature that wants to invest in schools. That means appropriately responding to what the current Legislature does in this session and the total investment it makes.”
On Thursday, a special Senate committee on school finance moved forward with a bill to revise the state’s school funding formula. The changes are designed to make the formula fairer to poor school districts.
Governor Colyer said in a statement “As I have said from the beginning, we must find a way to end, once and for all, the lawsuits surrounding education that have plagued Kansas for the past 50 years. We must work together on a solution that keeps our schools open, does not increase the tax burden on Kansas citizens, and ensures we provide a quality education for all Kansas students.”
The legislature has until April 30th to come up with a funding solution and present it to the court.
There are more than a dozen candidates running for Governor, however the KSNT Capitol Bureau was not able to talk with all the candidates about the issue for this story.