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Kansas lawmakers expected to vote on bill to keep schools open

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- Kansas lawmakers are expected to vote Friday on a bill that would keep schools open after June 30.

The state supreme court ordered schools closed at the end of the month if inequities in funding for school districts across Kansas have not been corrected.

Republicans say they have worked for weeks to build a coalition of support for this plan among school leaders across the state.

The proposal would not spend any new money on K-12 education. Instead it would cut half a percent from all schools' operating budgets, and use that money to provide equalization aid to poor schools. The big three in Johnson County -- Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission, all have agreed to give up millions of dollars as part of the plan, to keep schools open on July 1.

"This is my 16th year and I have voted for more funding for education every year," said House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Republican from Stillwell. "And I’m classified as anti-education. They’ve got more money this year than they had last year, more money last year than they had the year before."

Democrats have proposed spending $38-million in additional money to equalize the imbalance the court sees in education funding. They admit their plan is unlikely to get a vote. Republicans say the state doesn't have millions more to give to schools.

With more than half of the state budget already allocated to public schools, Republicans say Kansas has been generous, and many are calling on school leaders to do a better job making sure the funding they do receive results in smarter kids coming out of classrooms.

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