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Resolution could change who has power to decide education funding adequacy issues

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It has been talked about for years. Now lawmakers are gearing up for a vote which could put a constitutional amendment on education funding in front of voters later this year.

House Concurrent Resolution 5029 could see debate as soon as Monday in front of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would keep the court system in charge of overseeing funding equity matters, but it would take current court responsibility for adequacy issues and give those to lawmakers.

Opinion is split among local House members on whether a constitutional amendment is needed. 60th District Representative Mark Schreiber of Emporia doesn’t believe it is.

76th District Representative Eric Smith of Burlington is on board, in part because of the legal costs the state has incurred for better than 20 years as the debate over education funding keeps rippling through the courts.

51st District Representative Ron Highland of Wamego agrees with Smith.

A two-thirds majority would be needed in both chambers to put the matter on the November ballot.

The Kansas Supreme Court has said more money needs to go into public education, and much of that funding has to be geared towards the so-called lower 25 percent of students so they have better chances of success. A tentative plan has to be submitted by April 30, and lawmakers also head to their traditional three-week spring break Friday. Gov. Jeff Colyer is now pushing lawmakers to finish their initial work before they head to break.

Lawmakers are also considering how much to use a recent external study that showed anywhere from $500 million to $2.1 billion extra may have to be infused into public education based on goals like increasing graduation rates and student test scores.

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