High Court Intervention Prompts Funding Hike
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
A legislative year bookended by state supreme court decisions, and augmented by a two-week special session, resulted in a $2.6 billion education budget for fiscal 2006 and resolved, at least for now, the prolonged battle between the legislature and the courts over how Kansas finances K-12 education.
One week before the legislative session began, the high court declared on Jan. 3 that the state was inadequately financing its public schools, and it gave lawmakers until April 12 to remedy the problem. On June 3, the court once again rejected the state’s budget for K-12 education, and it ordered lawmakers to spend at least an additional $143 million on schools in fiscal 2006.
The final $2.6 billion budget, passed during a special session in June, provided an increase of 12 percent over fiscal 2005 education spending. The Kansas Supreme Court gave its long-awaited approval in a July 8 ruling.
In its January decision, the court asked lawmakers to increase funding for special education, bilingual education, and programs for students deemed at risk of academic failure. As a result, $49 million in new money was allocated in the final budget for special education, $22 million for bilingual education, and $80 million for programs for students considered at risk.
Also, more than $145 million will be spent to increase state per-pupil spending from $3,863, the level it has been at for three years, to $4,257. Though the courts and the legislature have made peace, next year could bring more conflict. The court hinted in its June decision that it might ask for an additional $568 million in 2006-07, unless lawmakers complete a valid analysis of K-12 costs by the time they appropriate money for that year.
Vol. 25, Issue 03, Page 29