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Deep Split in Kansas Over How to Answer Court Decision

Ever since Kansas' Supreme Court last week ruled that the state's spending on public schools leaves schools with too little money to educate their poor, black, and Latino students, the state's legislature and governor have been at odds at how to answer the ruling.

The stakes are high. Last year, the court threatened to essentially shut down the state's school districts if the state didn't come up with a way to more equitably distribute its funding between schools by June.  The state currently faces a multimillion-dollar deficit after Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, slashed income taxes several years ago. He attributes the deficit to an economic slump in energy production and the agriculture industry. Here are three proposals from legislators and the governor  to answer the court:  

  • Moderate Republicans and Democrats want to increase the state's income taxes to bring close to $900 million more into the state's coffers. Many of the state's district leaders say the state's old funding formula would satisfy the court, though opponents to the old funding formula say reverting to that formula would not address the court's mandate that the state close achievement gaps. After last year's election, the state's moderate Republicans and Democrats have a solid enough majority in both House and Senate to get a funding formula to the governor's desk.  
  • Conservative Republicans have proposed to increase per-pupil spending by a  more moderate amount and crack down on accountability by instituting an A-F grading system. They propose paying bonuses to staff members who work with schools that get an A and witholding money from schools that receive and F, instead giving students in those districts vouchers to attend other schools.  
  • Brownback wants to generate revenue for increased school funding by increasing liquor and tobacco taxes, boost business filing fees. He also wants to expand school choice. But many critics say his proposals wouldn't bring in enough money. Brownback's response: "Success is not measured in dollars spent, but in higher student performance." 

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