But the debate over education funding is casting a spotlight on pension costs as Brownback and lawmakers await a Kansas Supreme Court ruling in a lawsuit claiming that the state isn't spending enough money on its public schools.
School employees make up 55 percent of the 156,000 active members of the state pension system, and they're nearly as dominant among retirees receiving benefits. Contributions to school employees' pensions are expected to top $400 million under the next budget.
School employees' pension costs, expected to top $400 million under the next budget, are paid for separately from Kansas' base aid to public schools.
Currently, the base aid is set at $3,838, nearly 15 percent below a pre-Great Recession high of $4,492 per student. Many Republican lawmakers believe the state should get credit from the courts for covering rising pension costs for school districts.
Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said while funding pensions adequately is important and retirement benefits help recruit good teachers, "it probably isn't going to have anything to do with reading scores going up."
"Virtually all new money available for schools may be taken up by KPERS," he said.
Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org
Kansas Public Employees Retirement System: http://www.kpers.org
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