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School Funding Proposal in Kansas Will End Districts' Power to Levy Taxes

About 30 Kansas administrators have put forward a proposal that would end local school districts' authority to levy taxes for schools. Instead, the state would be empowered to set a statewide tax for education and distribute the money to the districts, according to the Associated Press.

The administrators' proposal came at a gathering of educators on Wednesday, shortly before Republican Gov. Sam Brownback asked Kansans to send him their ideas on a new school funding formula. 

"Building a new school funding system is a very difficult task," the Kansas City Star quoted Brownback as saying.  "It needs a broad scale of input to it. We're trying to get that process started well ahead of the legislative session."

Kansas school funding has been something of a political football—the subject of legal challenges and attempted fixes—in the last few years. Oral arguments are expected to begin this month in one of those school funding cases, Gannon v. State, which focuses on whether the state provides "adequate" funds to schools.

The school administrators floated their plan because the state legislature is expected to come up with a new way to fund K-12 education next year.

But the school administrators' proposal is just that: a proposal.

Jim Freeman, the former chief financial officer at the Wichita district, told the Kansas City Star: "These are just concepts. This is not a done document."

The administrators' group has asked its members to weigh in.

The  Associated Press noted that local control—the ability to raise taxes to fund programs and initiatives that communities want—is a cherished concept in Kansas (and many other localities). And, in the past, some districts have argued for less stringent limits on how much they can raise through taxes, or for no limits altogether.

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