By John Hanna
The Kansas Legislature’s top Democrats predicted Sunday that Republican lawmakers will try to extend a new law for funding the state’s public schools that has been criticized by many educators, though two GOP Senate leaders said they knew of no such plan.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs of Kansas City said they doubt the Legislature’s GOP majorities will pass another school funding law this year to replace a short-term one enacted last year. Democratic lawmakers met for policy briefings a day before Monday’s opening of the Legislature’s annual session.
Republican leaders have acknowledged that they’re not sure how far legislators will get in writing a new formula for distributing more than $4 billion a year in aid to the state’s 286 school districts. The current law – which junked a per-pupil formula in favor of set “block grants” – is set to expire in July 2017 because the GOP lawmakers who wrote it meant it to be temporary.
Hensley and Burroughs said they think Republicans will attempt to extend the current law until July 2018, so that much of the work of drafting a new formula can be postponed until after this year’s elections. All legislative seats will be on the ballot in November.
“At the end of the day, I think they’ll just punt,” Hensley told fellow Democrats.
Burroughs said during a break in Democrats’ meeting: “I anticipate that they will extend the block-grant formula one more time.”