Lawmakers trying to create a new school finance formula struggled to come to a compromise Monday, eventually agreeing to put forward a revised bill that boosts funding by roughly $280 million over the next two school years.
That’s far short of the number some lawmakers and education advocates had called for in the wake of a ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court on public education funding.
An earlier version of the proposal called for a continued funding increase of roughly $150 million every year for the next five school years.
But with a deadline from the court looming, members of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee said a debate on the House floor needed to happen soon.
Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Fairway Republican, said, “It’s high time that we allow the process to continue.
“It goes without saying, this is not what I would have liked,” Rooker said. “And it is also very clear this committee is sharply divided.”
Lawmakers on the House panel had argued over the details of a new formula for weeks.
Rep. Larry Campbell, the Olathe Republican who leads the committee, said the revised bill includes an increase in education funding of roughly $180 million next school year and then $100 million for the year that follows. Funding changes for the years after that, he said, would be tied to the consumer price index.
Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, said he was concerned the changes would make the funding “woefully inadequate.”
In its March ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court found that the state had failed to ensure adequate funding for public schools. The justices also detailed that the state was failing to provide roughly one-fourth of public school students with basic math and reading skills.
The Legislature faces a June 30 deadline from the court to pass a new school finance formula.
A spokesman for the Kansas City, Kan., school district described the bill as now going the wrong direction.
“The bottom line is, it’s got to pass the Supreme Court test for adequacy,” David Smith said. “And this number is so much lower than numbers that were already in doubt with regard to adequacy that it’s hard to imagine that this is going to meet the Supreme Court’s test.”
Rep. Valdenia Winn, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, also criticized the bill.
“I’m ready to spend my summer here because it is not close to adequacy,” she said.
Rep. Jim Karleskint, a Tonganoxie Republican, said earlier in Monday’s debate that the full House and Senate need an opportunity to look at the bill.
“We’ve got 286 school districts out there that are frozen in time,” he said. “They can’t do any planning for next year until we do something.”