Funding Debate “Boils Over”

Two correspondents for the Kansas City Star say that School funding crisis boils over.

The two review a few of the forces at work:

Rural lawmakers are locked in a stalemate with urban lawmakers. Lawmakers who would rein in the Supreme Court were outvoted by those who won’’t. Lawmakers who want gambling were stymied by those who don’’t. Throw in elections this fall for the governor and all 125 House districts and you have a political page-turner that’’s primed for paralysis.

Also at play: Johnson County versus voices from the rest of the state, who, in the words of David Klepper and Jim Sullinger, argue that raising the limit on the local option budget “provides an education advantage that their districts and taxpayers can’’t afford.”

Two observations can be made in response to that objection:
1. If Johnson County wants to tax itself more, why should anyone else care? Is this envy (“If I can spend $X, you can’t either,”) at work, or simply …
2. Ignorance of the fact that increased spending on education does not guarantee better results.

The Star’s team offers a summary of the latest report on school finance:

A January audit suggested that small, rural schools were receiving too much money while schools in urban, high-poverty areas weren’t getting enough. It suggested that lawmakers needed to find an additional $400 million to meet actual costs. However, most of the plans being examined provide more money for rural schools and don’’t provide as much for urban, high-poverty districts as suggested in the audit.

Here’s an alternative: set a per-pupil funding level that the state treasury will support. Hand that money out to parents, in the form of tax credits ( refundable, if need be) or a voucher. Give families with special needs children an extra amount. Then let parents decide where the money will be spent.

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