Archive for Saturday, April 5, 2014

Kansas Senate agrees to more money for schools; insists on vouchers

April 5, 2014

— Republicans in the Kansas Senate have agreed to drop a provision from their school finance bill that would have defunded implementation of the Common Core standards for reading and math.

But they are insisting on language that would repeal laws regarding teacher tenure, and provisions that would indirectly provide public funding for certain students to attend private or parochial schools, as well as home schools.

That was the Senate's initial offer this morning in a conference committee that is trying to hammer out an agreement on a bill in response to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said the state needs to eliminate funding disparities between rich and poor school districts.

The Senate's offer would accept the House position on the additional money. That calls for roughly $129 million in new funding for so-called "equalization" aid to schools as well as raising the limit on how much additional money local districts can raise on their own through property taxes.

Under the House plan, the Lawrence school district would get an additional $1.1 million from the state for its general fund next year, and could raise another million dollars or so through its local option budget.

But GOP senators say they are adamant about their policy provisions to repeal the teacher tenure law for K-12 teachers, which gives any teacher who has been with a district for three or more years the right to administrative due process hearings before they can be fired or have their contract non-renewed for the following year.

But Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, who leads the Senate negotiating team, said individual school districts could still offer tenure, if they choose, as an employee benefit negotiated with teachers unions.

The indirect voucher programs include a 70-percent tax credit for corporations that donate money for scholarships that would pay for private or parochial school tuition for students who meet certain income guidelines, as well as property tax credits for families who either home school their children or send them to private schools.

Masterson also conceded that there is no chance that Democrats will agree to such a package, and so he initiated a procedural move that will allow the conference committee to send a bill back to the full chambers without the signatures of the two minority party negotiators.

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