School funding issue looming over upcoming 2019 legislative session

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Advocates for schools hope lawmakers keep the school funding formula and fix what’s needed, instead of the full reworking some legislative leaders propose.

The debate will be at the heart of the 2019 session that begins next week.

“Our concern there is both the time it might take and the fact that really the last two years have been spent kind of locking things down,” said Mark Tallman, lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Kansas House leadership has said reworking the formula may be a possibility to meet the requirements of the Kansas Supreme Court. The Court ruled the formula is sound, except for a part to cover future years and inflation.

“If we’re going to phase it in, how we recognize the cost of living that will take place during the phase in to continue to be at that adequate level,” Tallman explained.

Calculations show that could be an additional $90 million each year, or $360 million phased in over the next four years. Leadership is worried the state can’t afford that, despite growing tax receipts. Rep. Brenda Dietrich (R-Topeka) says the money is there now.

“The question is will we have adequate funds 4 years from now? Because this is a long term solution, not a short term solution,” said Dietrich, who sits on the K-12 Budget Committee.

She says until they know how money will flow under the current tax plan, her focus will be fixing the inflation issue to end the loop of litigation.

“I sure would like to get this solved quickly,” she remarked.

The Kansas Supreme Court has given lawmakers until June to fix the funding issue.

The session starts Monday. More about the leaderships’ plans will come out in the coming weeks.