Senate to House: Check, and Raise

The Kansas House has already discussed adding $500 million to school funding. According to KMBC-9, the Kansas Senate may go the House another $160 million better for a total increase of $600 million.

So far, no plan for increased funding includes provisions for either increased taxes or spending decreases elsewhere. In short, the bet is that the state can grow itself out of the demands for increased funding. Perhaps.

Budget projections from legislators’ staff suggest that while the state can afford a big increase in spending on schools during the fiscal year that begins July 1, the additional aid, absent new revenues, would cause serious budget problems after that, with a shortfall appearing as early as fiscal 2008.

Said budget hawk Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, “Clearly none of the plans balance.” (According to the account in the Eagle, see link below, 15 Senate and House Republicans condemned both plans as “fiscally irresponsible and unaffordable.” That’s a small number out of the entire legislature.)

Here’s how the two plans diverge so far:

The Senate plan puts $180 million in school funding in the first year, plus $70 million more through changes in a law allowing districts to raise additional local property taxes, for a total increase of more than $250 million. Schools currently receive more than $3 billion from the state each year. The House plan commits $175 million in new state dollars to schools in its first year, but more than $69 million would go to programs for at-risk students.

Naturally, the KASB (school boards) lobbyist likes the more generous plan from the Senate.

The two chambers also have different plans for treating high-poverty districts. The Senate would give extra money to Dodge City, Kansas City, Liberal, Topeka and Wichita–the top 5 districts in terms of students receiving free lunches.

The House would give extra money to Hutchinson, Kansas City, Leavenworth, Piper, Topeka and Wichita, in a formula that relies on population density.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Star leads off with the bipartisan nature of the Senate plan. It also points out that each plan emphasizes at-risk students.

But,

One major difference is that the Senate plan requires $180 million of the $660 million to come from local revenue sources. For most districts, that means raising local property taxes.

Other provisions of the Senate plan:

Basic state aid would increase by $50 per student from the current level of $4,257.

■ The level of additional at-risk dollars would increase to $1,154 per student from the current $822. That would cost the state an additional $30.3 million.

■ An additional $10 million would be provided to five districts with high poverty rates, including Kansas City, Kan.

■ More money would be allowed from local revenue sources. Currently, districts can increase their operating budgets by 27 percent using local funding. That would increase to 29 percent under the Senate proposal.

A similar article from the Wichita Eagle, Senate offers schools plan, adds that the operating budget number rises to 30 percent in the final year.

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