School finance bill--including extras--passes, now headed to Governor's desk

Gov. Sam Brownback will now consider a bill passed by both the House and Senate to fund education, after multiple all-night sessions. The bill, however, also includes language delivering tax breaks to private school supporters, and removes due process rights for teachers.

The Senate approved the measure 22-16 earlier Sunday, while the House's second vote of the day also approved the bill -- marginally -- 63-57. Discussion in both chambers was heated, with teachers and school administrators from across the state gathered at the capitol to urge legislators to pass a clean bill with no major policy revisions.

Rep. Peggy Mast voted for the final bill. Rep. Don Hill was absent and Sen. Jeff Longbine voted against the bill, according to the online tracking site LegiScan.com.

House Bill 2506 was overhauled multiple times before returning for consideration Sunday afternoon. The House rejected the measure early Sunday morning, after two hours of debate over specific additions to the bill.

The bill kept a provocative section, repealing employment due process procedures, in place for over 36,000 public school teachers, librarians, and counselors. This section was sought by conservatives drawn to anti-union perspectives, and would eliminate what is commonly refered to as "tenure" for K-12 teachers in Kansas.

Other key pieces of compromise language in this bill include:

*Increasing base state aid per pupil by $14 in the upcoming school year, shifting the amount to $3,838.

*Responding to the Supreme Court ruling by adding $129 million to equalize specialized categories of funding to public schools.

*Exempting individuals with college degrees in science, technology, math, finance and accounting from public school teacher license requirements.

*Creating a tax credit for companies donating to private school scholarship funds.

*Authorizing local school districts to increase property tax collections through the "local-option budget," which could provide millions of dollars in cash for districts.

Debates about transparency and democracy were more numerous than debates regarding the actual wording of the bill. Numerous action groups statewide are assessing the new bill, which will come across Gov. Brownback's desk soon.

Lawmakers wanted to finish this bill before taking a three-week break to end the regular session. We'll keep you updated on KVOE and KVOE.com.


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