Archive for Thursday, January 5, 2006

Speaker agrees on multiyear school funding

January 5, 2006

— Usually opponents, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and House Speaker Doug Mays seem to be reading from the same page when it comes to one aspect of school finance as the 2006 legislative session approaches.

Sebelius, a Democrat, said she was ready to work with the Legislature toward a multiyear funding plan for public schools, and Mays, a Republican, said that was appropriate.

"I told her that seemed to be the way the Legislature is looking," Mays said.

The agreement, while absent any details, is a far cry from where the two state leaders have been in recent months.

In a summer special session, Sebelius and Mays squared off over school finance after the Kansas Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to increase funding.

Mays wanted to rein in the court, but in the end the Legislature approved a $148 million increase to end the session.

Mays then announced he would challenge Sebelius in the 2006 election.

Months later, however, with Mays not picking up any steam, he bowed out of the gubernatorial race and also said he would not seek re-election to the House.

So when the 2006 legislative session starts Monday, Jan. 9, Mays will be in his final year in the House.

A critical factor to the session will be the release of a school cost study that the state Supreme Court said was needed to show lawmakers how much to spend to provide a suitable education under the state Constitution.

"There will be an effort once that study comes out to work with the Legislature and figure out a strategy," Sebelius said. "I've always believed and continue to believe we need a multiyear strategy on investment in education."

Mark Tallman, a spokesman for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said the similar remarks from Sebelius and Mays may be an effort by the two leaders to be less confrontational as the session starts.

"There seems to be kind of a lowering of the rhetoric going in," Tallman said.

But, he added, "I don't want to read too much into that until we see what the cost study says, and get a sense of how the court will respond to that."

Tallman also said he was wary of talk about multiyear plans if that means taking a phased approach to supplying new funds.

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