Kansas high court orders school funding increase - KCTV5 News

Kansas high court orders school funding increase

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File photo. (KCTV5) File photo. (KCTV5)

The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered the state to increase its spending on public schools, but it didn't say by how much.

The court ruled Thursday that legislators must enact a new education funding law by the end of June.

The decision says: 

Once a new financing system is enacted, the State will have to satisfactorily demonstrate to this court by June 30, 2017, that its proposed remedy is reasonably calculated to address the constitutional violations identified, as well as comports with previously identified constitutional mandates such as equity. See Gannon II, 303 Kan. at 743 ("[A]ny other funding system it enacts must be demonstrated to be capable of meeting the equity requirements of Article 6—while not running afoul of the adequacy requirement.")

A spokesman at Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kansas told KCTV5 News that the court probably didn't come up with a dollar amount because it wanted to give lawmakers some flexibility.

After lawmakers come up with something, then the court will decide if it's adequate.

He says there's no way that they can find a fix that won't involve budgeting more money for public schools.

The decision comes with the state already facing projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019. Lawmakers are considering rolling back steep income tax cuts championed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

The justices ruled in a lawsuit filed by four school districts in 2010. They argued that legislators were violating the state constitution by failing to finance a suitable education for each of the state's 458,000 students.

The districts argued for an $800 million increase in the state's $4.1 billion in annual aid.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled on whether the state is spending enough money on its public schools to provide a suitable education for every child.

It has ruled the state does not spend enough money to guarantee every student gets a quality education.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has once again reinforced the constitutional requirement for adequacy in school funding across the state,” said Dr. Cynthia Lane, superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools (KCKPS). “This ruling is a victory for school children throughout the state of Kansas. Our legislature is now challenged to implement sound and responsible tax policies which will allow them to meet the mandates of this court decision.”

Finding that money will be a challenge in the face of what was a projected budget shortfall -- even before Thursday’s court order.

Just last week, Governor Sam Brownback, who slashed taxes in 2012, vetoed a bill lawmakers had passed to increase taxes to find more money overall.

"I think this will probably accelerate the pressure and the necessity because they're going to have to fix the tax situation and then figure out school finance,” said David Smith, KCK Public Schools Spokesman. “So, those are two very large balls they've got to carry across the finish line.”

Last year, the Supreme Court ordered a change in how funding was distributed to address the challenges of less wealthy districts, which came down to the wire.

Smith says he's optimistic this time because many of the lawmakers involved then were replaced by voters in November.

Governor Sam Brownback released the following statement after the ruling: 

The Kansas Supreme Court correctly observes that our education system has failed to provide a suitable education for the lowest performing 25 percent of students. The old funding formula failed our students, particularly those that struggle most. The new funding system must right this wrong.

The Kansas Constitution empowers the legislative branch with the power of the purse.  Respecting the separation of powers between our three co-equal branches of government, the Kansas legislature has already begun the work of writing a new school funding system. The Kansas legislature has the opportunity to engage in transformative educational reform by passing a school funding system that puts students first. Success is not measured in dollars spent, but in higher student performance.

Over the last six years, my administration brought new opportunities targeting students who struggle to read and struggle to graduate high school on time. These evidence-based programs like Kansas Reading Roadmap and Jobs for America’s Graduates should be spread statewide, making them available to all students in the bottom 25 percent.

Furthermore, the time has come to equip parents of struggling students with the power they need to determine the best education for their child.  If they believe a quality education is not possible in their local public school, they should be given the opportunity and resources to set their child up for success through other educational choices.

The full decision can be read below:

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