Kansas Supreme Court says state isn't spending enough on ed

Seal of the Kansas Supreme Court

March 2 The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the state's system of funding primary and secondary public schools falls short of an adequacy requirement in the state constitution.

Attorneys for four school districts that sued the state over education funding in 2010 said the increase must be at least $800 million, but lawmakers didn't immediately accept the figure.

The simplest solution is to restore - and fully fund - the previous school finance formula (which school districts support and the court already approved). Just a year ago, the the state Supreme Court threatened to shut down schools, though lawmakers eventually complied with the court's judgement demanding that more money go to schools in poor areas. But the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City districts argued that the figure should be about 20% higher, boosting annual spending by nearly $800 million, or roughly $1,740 per student.

Eyewitness News is following the case. By underfunding education, the judges said, the state system failed in one-fourth of all its public schools to appropriately educate students in basic reading and math skills and shortchanged half of the state's black students and one-third of its Hispanic students. Ultimately, the court's decision is not about how much money is spent - but how.

In Wichita, community activist Djuan Wash, the father of a 9-year-old girl, said such problems create "a cycle of poverty".

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He said he's happy to receive the ruling in time for the legislature to address it in session.

After a contentious six-year battle, the Kansas Supreme Court has finally confirmed what anyone who has recently stepped inside a Kansas public school already knew: Kansas public education is significantly underfunded. "What I would tell you is that the years of research I've engaged in tells us that almost all 50 states have a formula that looks like our old school funding formula".

Baumgardner said her committee has had hearings on the components that made up the school finance formula that was in place prior to 2015, when lawmakers put schools on a temporary block grant system that will expire after the current school year. She is the mother of four children aged 8 to 22.

Kansas's House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, says the new approach to funding must recognize that "all students are entitled to a public education, all kids aren't the same and some kids cost more than others".

"The notion that there is no money is a self-inflicted condition", said plaintiffs' attorney John Robb, according to the Kansas City Star.

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Even though block grant funding was set to end June 30, there had been speculation the Legislature might extend block grants another year.

A move in the state legislature to boost revenue by raising tax rates and eliminating a business exemption failed last week when the Senate was unable to override Governor Sam Brownback's veto.

The court agreed that funding should be higher and must change, however, did not provide a number for how much the state should be spending.

"Furthermore, the time has come to equip parents of struggling students with the power they need to determine the best education for their child".

Approximately 15,000 of the state's African-American students are not proficient in reading and math. "Plaintiffs have also proven by substantial competent evidence that the student performance reflected in this data is related to funding levels".

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"The state argued that every public school in Kansas is accredited and an analysis by the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) says Kansas schools rank 10th in the country".


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