Democrats in Kansas have released their alternative to Governor Sam Brownback's school finance proposals, saying that they want to restore funding to Kansas public schools by using some of the state's revenue surplus.
The plan calls for increasing school funding by $45 million in the 2012-13 school year, $45 million more in the following and doubling that for an additional $90 million in 2014-15.
Democrats said the increases would raise the base aid per student from the current $3,780 to $4,047 by 2015, writes John Milburn at KOAM TV.
These proposals come after Republican Governor Sam Brownback announced his plan to rewrite the school finance formula and "place more responsibility for education funding on local boards of education".
Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said:
"There is no reason to overhaul a school finance formula that has already withstood the muster of the Kansas Supreme Court.
"The Legislature simply needs to hold up its end of the bargain and fund the formula properly."
The governor's staff recently declared that Brownback's proposed budget will keep base state aid for public schools at the current $3,780 per pupil. The funding system would give the state's 283 school districts the power to raise funds through local property tax hikes.
However, critics claim these plans would give wealthier school districts the upper hand. USD 501 superintendent Dr. Julie Ford says:
"I was worried about the little districts. I mean, having worked with the state department too, little districts have their own unique challenges."
This is disputed by policy director Landon Fulmer, who believes that equality in money distribution is at the heart of the plan.
"We provide a great amount of equalization to the very poorest school districts initially so that when the wealthier districts are perhaps pitching in more in local property taxes to their education through their elected officials to the school board, they are not dis equalized (sic) immediately."
However, Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said:
"Republicans want to give our surplus revenue to corporations who already aren't paying their fair share.
"Democrats value public education, and we want the state budget to reflect that by using extra state revenue to make an investment in our children's future."
Democrats want to give local governments $45 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2014, also from the state's reserves.
Legislators eliminated the revenue-sharing program with cities and counties in 2004 as they sought to balance the state budget in the wake of a recession, writes Milburn.