The Latest: Plan drops aid for 141 Kansas school districts

AP News
|
Posted: Jun 23, 2016 7:11 PM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on the Kansas Legislature's debate on school funding (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

A spreadsheet from legislative researchers shows that nearly half of Kansas' 286 school districts would see less state aid under a Republican education funding plan.

The plan outlined Thursday would decrease the aid 141 districts had been promised for the 2016-17 school year. The changes would allow Kansas to boost aid for poor districts by $38 million.

Legislators are meeting in a special session to address a state Supreme Court ruling last month that the education funding system remains unfair to poor districts.

The Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission districts in Johnson County together would lose more than $6.1 million for 2016-17.

The spreadsheet showed 145 districts gaining aid.

The largest district, Wichita, would gain nearly $8.3 million. Kansas City would gain $1.6 million.

___

4:55 p.m.

Some Republicans in the Kansas House have a school funding plan that's an alternative to one from GOP leaders.

Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker of Fairway said Thursday that many GOP lawmakers are acting as if there's only one real plan, but she considers it flawed.

Legislators are meeting in a special session to address a recent state Supreme Court mandate to boost aid to poor school districts. Both Republican leaders' plan and the alternative proposal would increase that aid by $38 million.

The difference is in how each plan is financed.

GOP leaders' plan shuffles existing education dollars. The proposal backed by Rooker and other GOP moderates taps motor vehicle fees and uncommitted dollars in a jobs creation fund instead.

House and Senate committees approved GOP leaders' plan Thursday.

___

3:55 p.m.

A Kansas House committee has approved a Republican education funding plan aimed at heading off a threat that schools will shut down and satisfying a state Supreme Court mandate.

The Appropriations Committee's voice vote Thursday sent the plan to the full House for debate Friday. Lawmakers are having a special session to address a Supreme Court ruling last month.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved the same plan earlier in the day.

The plan would boost aid to poor school districts by $38 million, but much of the money would come from reshuffling existing education dollars.

The Supreme Court said the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. The justices warned that schools wouldn't be able to reopen after June 30 without changes.

___

2:50 p.m.

A Kansas Senate committee has approved a proposed amendment to the state constitution to limit the power of the courts in education funding cases.

The measure passed Thursday by the Judiciary Committee would bar the courts from shutting down schools in school finance lawsuits. The Legislature also would be barred from closing schools in response to a court ruling.

The committee's voice vote sets up a Senate debate Friday. Any proposed amendment would go on the ballot in November.

Legislators are having a special session to address a state Supreme Court ruling last month warning that schools might not be able to reopen after June 30 unless lawmakers change the education funding system.

Some Republicans are upset over the closure threat. But Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley called the proposed amendment "frivolous."

___

1:35 p.m.

A Kansas Senate committee has approved a Republican education funding plan aimed at satisfying a state Supreme Court mandate and averting a threat that schools will shut down.

The Ways and Means Committee's 9-2 vote Thursday sent the plan to the full Senate for a debate that is expected Friday. Lawmakers are meeting in a special session to address a Supreme Court ruling last month.

The plan would boost aid to poor school districts by $38 million, but much of the money would come from reshuffling existing education dollars. The votes against the plan came from the committee's two Democrats.

The Supreme Court said the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts. The justices warned that schools wouldn't be able to reopen after June 30 without changes.

___

12:20 p.m.

Two big school districts in Johnson County are reluctantly supporting a school funding plan from Republican legislators for satisfying a Kansas Supreme Court mandate.

Superintendents Todd White and Jim Hinson of the Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission districts told lawmakers Thursday that they're backing the plan as a one-year solution and because of a threat that schools might not reopen after June 30.

The plan would redistribute dollars from wealthier districts like theirs to poorer ones to comply with a Supreme Court ruling last month. The court warned schools might not be able to reopen if lawmakers didn't make changes.

Wichita Superintendent John Allison said his district would not object to the plan as a last resort if lawmakers couldn't find additional dollars outside education to divert to schools.

___

11:20 a.m.

An attorney representing four Kansas school districts that are suing the state over education funding says a new plan from Republican lawmakers won't satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Lawyer John Robb said the plan is flawed because it shuffles some existing education dollars to boost aid to poor school districts by $38 million.

The Legislature convened a special session Thursday to address the Supreme Court's order last month that the state's education system remains unfair to poor districts. The justices warned that schools might remain closed after June 30 without further changes.

Part of the GOP plan trims all districts' aid for general operations to help cover the additional aid for poor districts.

Robb said in an email, "The time for these shell games has passed."

___

10:45 a.m.

About 150 teachers, parents and other education advocates are rallying at the Kansas Statehouse while legislators are having a special session on school funding.

The crowd Thursday chanted "Do your job!" Speakers said they want legislators to increase aid to poor school districts quickly and go home.

The state Supreme Court ruled last month that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor districts. The justices warned that schools might not reopen after June 30 if lawmakers don't make changes.

Education groups scheduled the rally, but at times it had the flavor of a Democratic Party event, with several Democratic candidates speaking.

Kansas City, Kansas, middle school teacher Aubrey Kennedy said she attended because she wants her students to have the same opportunities as others across the state.

___

9:15 a.m.

Officials from the Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, school districts say they have not signed off on Republican legislators' education funding plan.

Wichita Superintendent John Allison said Thursday that his district needs to review the details of the $38 million plan. He was at the Statehouse as lawmakers opened a special session on education funding.

Kansas City district spokesman David Smith said, "We've not signed off on anything at this point."

The chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees said the districts signed off. The Wichita and Kansas City districts are among four suing the state.

The state Supreme Court ruled last month that the education funding system remains unfair to poor school districts and warned that schools might not be able to reopen after June 30 without changes.

___

8:50 a.m.

Republican legislators have unveiled the details of their $38 million plan for helping poor school districts and satisfying a recent state Supreme Court ruling on education funding.

The House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees introduced separate but identical versions during short meetings Thursday at the start of a special session.

The committees were having hearings on the plan immediately.

The plan helps pay for extra aid to poor school districts by diverting $24 million in existing education funds from districts' general operating funds, dollars for online courses and money set aside for student enrollment increases or other emergency needs.

Other funds for relatively poor school districts would be diverted from other parts of the state budget.

The plan also would redistribute funds from wealthier school districts to poorer ones.

___

8:05 a.m.

Kansas legislators have opened a special session to address a state Supreme Court mandate on education funding and avert a threat that public schools might not reopen next month.

Lawmakers returned Thursday to the Statehouse following negotiations by key Republicans with superintendents from various districts on a $38 million plan for increasing aid to poor school districts.

With the state facing a budget crunch, they were looking at proposals to redistribute existing education dollars. They also hoped to lessen resistance from wealthy districts likely to lose aid, particularly in affluent Kansas City suburbs in Johnson County.

The Supreme Court ruled last month that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor districts and warned that schools might not reopen after June 30 if lawmakers don't make further changes by then.

___

12:05 a.m.

Kansas legislators are convening a special session to address a state Supreme Court mandate on education funding and avert a threat that public schools might not reopen next month.

Lawmakers returned to the Statehouse after key Republicans negotiated with superintendents from various districts on a $38 million plan for increasing aid to poor school districts.

With the state facing a budget crunch, they were looking at proposals to redistribute existing education dollars. They also hoped to lessen resistance from wealthy districts likely to lose aid, particularly in affluent Kansas City suburbs in Johnson County.

The Supreme Court ruled last month that the state's education funding system remains unfair to poor districts and warned that schools might not reopen after June 30 if lawmakers don't make further changes by then.