Democrats’ plan not bad but futile

By Walt Braun

The school funding plan legislative Democrats proposed Tuesday has its attractions. Chief among them is its call to restore over several years much of the money the Legislature — under both Democratic and Republican governors — cut to cope with the financial crisis in recent years.

The proposal would inject $45 million into schools for the 2012-13 school year, another $45 million the year after that and $90 million in 2014-15. That, Democrats say, would boost per-pupil spending from the present $3,780 to $4,047 by 2015.

The money would come largely from anticipated state revenue increases. In contrast to recent legislative sessions, during which lawmakers cut and scratched to make up budget shortfalls of hundreds of millions of dollars, the state this year is expected to have a surplus of about $200 million.

Despite its merits, the Democrats’ proposal has one major, even fatal, flaw: It has virtually no chance of passage.

Not only does Gov. Sam Brownback have other plans — some of which are better than others — for whatever revenue surpluses the state enjoys, he also wants to overhaul the school finance formula. What’s more, he is likely to succeed because he will be working with a Legislature dominated by fellow Republicans. Most of those in recent years — especially in the House of Representatives — have shown more interest in tax cuts than in funding education.

Tax cuts are another of the governor’s priorities. As for his proposed overhaul of school funding, it would modestly boost the state’s investment in schools for a couple of years while transferring more of the financial burden onto local school districts and their taxpayers.

That’s one of the changes Democrats want to prevent.









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