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Rural Kansas Schools to Benefit From New Education Funding Plan

A new $38 million education funding bill in Kansas will equalize state aid to rural and urban schools in Kansas by providing more money to districts that struggle to raise local contributions, reports The Wichita Eagle.

Lawmakers passed the bill during a special session after the state's Supreme Court threatened to cut all funding for schools if a new school funding plan was not created.  Earlier this year, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state's funding plan was inequitable and unconstitutional because "property-rich districts" could raise more money for schools than other districts. The court gave lawmakers until the end of June to develop a more equitable plan.

The new plan will provide more funds for districts with low property values, since those districts cannot raise as much money in local funds as property-rich districts. The $38 million in aid was cobbled together from various sources, including money from Kansas' settlement with tobacco companies during the 1990s and motor vehicle fees, according to The Holton Recorder. Nearly 60 percent of Kansas' school districts will see additional funding from the new bill, and 27 percent will lose state aid. The remaining districts will see no change in funding. The Associated Press reported that the new law could impact rural districts in different ways. Some small, rural districts will see decreases in tax levies while others may see increases in property taxes. One rural district, for example, has a new oil pipeline running through the area, which has increased local property values. Under the new funding plan, that district will not receive as much state aid as rural districts with low property values.   

More than 64 percent of school districts in Kansas are small and rural, and they serve 28 percent of students in the state. Kansas teachers who work in rural districts have one of the lowest average salaries compared to rural teachers in other states. Like rural districts nationwide, Kansas struggles to recruit and retain teachers, which means there is an overreliance on substitute teachers and fewer course offerings. Several rural districts in the state have consolidated in recent years in an attempt to save money and offer more programs to students. 

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