Lawmakers to meet in Topeka to discuss school funding issue

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- School funding will take center stage when Kansas lawmakers gather in Topeka Wednesday

The courts are threatening to shut down schools unless lawmakers give the poorer districts more money by the end of June.

In Kansas City, Kan., the majority of students live in poverty, and school officials say the money they currently get from the state is not enough.

There is an overall sense of unease that if the courts shutdown schools, students in summer school and those who come to Sumner Academy for free summer meals will be greatly impacted.

"You pray that they'll do what's right for children, and not just children in KCK or Johnson County but children across the state," KCK Schools Spokesperson David Smith said. "We depend on the quality of life and our community for our future success, and we need strong schools and we need to fund them adequately."

Lawmakers passed a school funding bill earlier this year that didn’t really give more money to poorer school districts.

The State Supreme Court ruled the bill unconstitutional Friday and gave lawmakers until June 30 to give poorer school districts, such as Kansas City, Kan.,  more money.

Many believe lawmakers will have to give out an extra $35-to-$50 million more to solve the inequity issue. KCK officials argue it’s an easy fix. The governor recently cut $97-million from the budget, so there’s a surplus of funding they can use. But will they?

KCK school officials say they need more money to avoid firing teachers and hurting their student’s educational experience.

"Yes, we're always trying to do better, and we'll always look to spend every dollar in the most efficient way we can, but this is not an issue of the districts not spending the money correctly," Smith said. "We just don't have enough."

While the governor’s office argues that the state is giving schools more money than ever before, many don’t realize that the cost of energy, insurance, and salaries continue to go up and cost schools more than what they are receiving.

"The Legislature moved money around and changed how it...the formula that it used, but it didn't change who was getting what," Smith said. "So if it was inequitable before and we're getting the same thing as before, it continues to be inequitable. It's hard to argue otherwise."

KCK school officials also say the amount of money they are receiving is around the same as it was seven years ago.


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