Property tax option to pay for school activities shot down in the House

TOPEKA — After complaints that poor students would be left behind, the House rejected a bill to allow school districts to tax themselves extra to pay for sports, bands and other extracurricular activities.

House Bill 2201 would have authorized districts, with voter consent, to raise property taxes to pay for extra activities beyond what the state requires schools to offer. It was shot down primarily by a coalition of Wichita and rural representatives who complained it would result in unequal education based on wealth.

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said rich communities with high property tax bases would be able to offer students a broad menu of activities by raising taxes as little as one-half of 1 mill. Poor districts would have to raise taxes 10 or more mills to get the same kind of dollars, he said.

“One of the proponents of this bill said ‘Life isn’t fair, so why would you expect schools to be fair?’” Ward said.

Proponents said they are expecting major cuts to school funding and wanted to give districts an option to continue to fund programs such as Japanese language instruction, jazz bands and minor sports such as diving.

“I know you may not believe this, but I brought it with a pure heart for the kids,” said House Majority Leader Alrlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe.

The vote on the bill was 54 in favor to 61 against.