State Representative Sydney Carlin of Manhattan contacted KMAN Thursday afternoon about the latest in Topeka.
Legislators met for a special session Thursday in an effort to draft legislation that will satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court when it comes to equitable school funding.
If nothing is accomplished by June 30, the court said it would hold school funding statewide starting July 1.
Carlin, a Democrat, told KMAN lawmakers of both parties are focused on avoiding that.
“We’re pretty focused on getting something done,” she said. “Most of us are pretty vocal about no constitutional amendment and no discussion outside of school finance. We’re trying really hard to hold to that.”
The Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon that a Senate committee has approved a Republican education funding plan aimed at satisfying the court. The Ways and Means Committee’s 9-2 vote sent the plan to the full Senate for a debate that is expected Friday. The AP also reported later Thursday afternoon that the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a proposed amendment to the state constitution to limit the power of the courts in education funding cases. The measure passed would bar the courts from shutting down schools in school finance lawsuits.
Carlin said there are parts of the leading funding bill she supports, but worries what it could mean for bigger school districts like Manhattan-Ogden.
“Half of all the money in this plan comes from a cut to school districts,” she said. “They’re asking every school to take a .05 (percent) cut in their budget.”
Carlin said USD 383 could lose as much as $260,000 as a result of the plan.
Carlin also expressed frustration that her party’s plan wasn’t given a chance to be heard.
“The Republican bill was introduced and the Democrat’s bill was introduced, but the Democrat’s bill failed to get the support of the committee to be introduced, so they turned us down on introducing the bill,” she said. “That’s never happened in the 14 years I’ve been here. I’m sure everybody has a right to vote yes or no, but we’ve always given each other the courtesy to support introducing their bill at least for discussion.
“We need to be able to work together and we started off with a nice slap to the face — not surprising.”
Still, Carlin said there’s parts of the Republican’s plan she supports.
“One of the things I like is that it returns to the old formula on a couple of items,” she said. “I’ve always said that formula was not broken and that we just need to appropriate the money to make it work.
“It is proving over and over by the courts that the formula was not the problem, so we may wind up in the future getting a similar formula we’ve had in the past.”
She has concerns, though.
“It takes money from virtual schools,” she said. “And Manhattan has a pretty good number of virtual school students.”
Carlin hopes for amendments to the current plan and expects the special session to carry over to Monday. She said both parties’ plans look to add $38 million to school funding.