Just after midnight Sunday, the Kansas Senate approved a $534 million increase to K-12 funding to be phased in over the next five years.
Rep. Blaine Finch voted “yes,” while Sen. Caryn Tyson and Rep. Kevin Jones opposed it. Jones said he voted no on the bill because it would most like mean taking funds from KPERS and Transportation.
“As we said from the beginning, everything in the budget really teeters on where K-12 funding falls in this current session,” Jones said. “I was actually talking today (Monday) to the Department of Children and Families and they have one of the biggest asks this year, over $20 million in new funding. The real question is, after the amount that we passed if we can do everything we are saying without a tax increase. I really don’t think it can be done.”
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer released a statement just after passage of the bill and said he was pleased with the outcome and the work done by the Legislature.
“Tonight, after months of robust debate, the Legislature voted to send a bill to my desk that funds our schools and provides a response to the Supreme Court’s ruling,” the statement said. “I am pleased that we were able to compromise and pass a bill that ensures our schools will remain open and are funded adequately and equitably. I appreciate the work the Legislature and others have put in to get this done, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to serve the people of Kansas.”
Other lawmakers across the state also reacted to the bill. Sen. Laura Kelly, the assistant minority leader from Topeka and democratic candidate for Governor, said lawmakers worked hard to get the bill passed.
“It does add a significant amount of funding to schools over the next five years,” Kelly told media Sunday. “I don’t think it’s ideal, but we’ve got to get something to the court. We can always come back in the veto session, and add more should we feel the need to.”
Jones said he is not sure what the courts will do with the bill. He said even though they passed the increase, there is no way to fund it. He said when you add it up over five years it will be more like $2.1 billion in funding.
“It’s like smoke,” he said. “Unless our economy is growing or our tax base is broadening to meet that need, there is really no way to fund it. We either have to raise taxes or we have to take it away from somewhere else.”
Gov. Colyer is expected to sign the bill. Rep. Finch and Sen. Tyson were not available for comment on Monday.