School funding still in limbo as planning continues

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Lawmakers appear at odds over how to meet a Kansas Supreme Court order to boost school funding.

Democrats in the House say Republican leadership wants to cut spending, while Republicans say all options are on the table.

“I’ve heard that the Speaker is going to propose the plan where he alleges to have found $200 million in savings in our formula. What that means in English is a cut to K-12 for $200 million,” said Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita).

Democrats say such a move would go against the Supreme Court’s ruling that the state needs to add $360 million over the next four years.
Republicans argue bills have been introduced to meet that demand.

“It’s like $91 million one year. $89 the next. So those bills have been introduced. The question is that we all have is, where are those bills going? Are they ever going to get out committee,” asked Rep. Brenda Dietrich (R-Topeka).

Still, Education Committee members say they are still talking options.

“It is moving pretty slowly right now, I’m sure from the public’s perspective and the legislative perspective. But I’m sure there are negotiations going on behind the scene with different factions that we just don’t know what those are yet,” Dietrich added.

Speaker Ron Ryckman issued a statement saying, “I’m not aware of any plan to cut Kansas schools besides the Democrat’s plan to cut $150 million a year from teachers’ retirement.” - referring to the governor's proposal to re-finance the state's public employees retirement fund.

Democrats say lawmakers need to stay on task.

“The people in this building need to respect the voters of Kansas, and the court. We are this close, very close, to satisfying our constitutional requirements and getting the resources to kids to pursue their god given talents,” Ward emphasized.

Democrats say a $900 million cash surplus from last year's budget could be used to increase funding.

A special Senate Committee is expected to start looking into tax relief on Tuesday because of changes in federal income tax laws last year.