Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2000

Task force recommends more money for schools

November 30, 2000

A Governor's task force recommendation to spend an additional $213 million on education may not be feasible, but it opens the door for legislatures to look at improving the state's public school system.

A report prepared by the K-12 Education: Financing for Results Task Force, part of Gov. Bill Graves' Vision 21st Century Initiative, calls for a substantial amount of additional funding if Kansas students are to receive a good education.

The state already distributes $1.9 billion to 304 school districts.

Seeking an additional $213 million may not have come as a surprise, but making it a reality would be an uphill battle in the Legislature.

"I will tell you flat out, unfortunately, it's not going to happen," said Sen. Mark Gilstrap, D-Kansas City.

Gilstrap said the report has offered legislatures a challenge and he expects education spending to be a key issue before lawmakers next year.

However, the funding isn't currently available and Wyandotte County representatives have categorically frowned on any tax increases.

"Wyandotte County has high taxes already and I don't have anyone knocking down my door asking for more taxes here," he said.

Wyandotte County and some Leavenworth parties have looked at the gaming industry as a viable alternative.

Rep. Ray Cox, R-Bonner Springs also is a big proponent of gaming and said it could be a viable option to financing education spending.

Cox said he thought Kansas could receive about $50 to $60 million a year in gaming revenue that could go to education.

Cox also wanted to look at the Governor's task force report before drawing any final conclusions.

Graves is to officially receive the report Dec. 1., and could address education spending at his State of the State address in January.

The tasks force report recommended changing the way special education is financed and spending an additional $62.8 million on the program.

The federal government has only been paying Kansas 12 to 14 percent of the 41 percent of special education funding available.

Gilstrap said the state should seek to have the federal government increase the percent amount Kansas would receive in federal aid.

Other highlights in the report called for an increase in the base state aid per student by $180 a year, increasing state assistance from $3,820 per pupil to $4,000.

It also calls for officials to address the inadequacies and inequities of the 1992 school finance law.

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