Law & Courts

Districts Cheer Kansas K-12 Aid Deal, Despite Uncertainties

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 15, 2014 3 min read
Red-shirted members of the Kansas National Education Association raise their hands to show support for public schools in the gallery of the Kansas House chamber in Topeka earlier this month.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Local education officials in Kansas say they’re pleased with the school funding changes state lawmakers agreed to earlier this month to satisfy a state Supreme Court ruling on education aid, but they say the solution doesn’t provide the ideal level of long-term stability for districts.

In addition to a modest per-student spending increase by the state, lawmakers decided to place a great deal of the funding increase in the hands of local districts by giving them greater financial flexibility when seeking tax increases to provide more money for their schools.

“For most districts, this is something that will be helpful. This will certainly be the biggest increase in funding for these programs that we’ve had in a long time,” said Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

The K-12 finance changes followed weeks of intense negotiations in the Kansas Legislature stemming from the court ruling March 7 that said the state’s education funding system was inequitable.

In the end, the state agreed to expand its general fund spending on education by $121 million, according to an analysis by the school boards association.

However, major K-12 policy changes were tacked onto the school-finance deal late in negotiations between lawmakers. In addition to establishing a new tax-credit scholarship program to increase school choice in the state, legislators also agreed to eliminate due-process protections for teachers, which means they can be dismissed from their jobs more easily.

Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, expressed his satisfaction with the deal, saying that it even exceeded what was required by the ruling in the Gannon v. State of Kansas case.

That ruling, issued by the Kansas Supreme Court on March 7, said the state’s K-12 funding system was inequitable, and required legislators to expand education funding through both operating and capital budget increases. It also ordered a lower court to review the question of whether the state’s system is also inadequate.

Local Power, Uncertainty

The legislature agreed to a $14 per-student spending increase for the 2014-15 academic year, boosting the state’s spending to $3,852 per child. But a key portion of the plan lies in changes to “local option” budgets—a level of additional tax revenue districts can seek from voters.

Lawmakers agreed to increase the cap on additional funding that districts could seek through ballot items, a cap that’s based on a theoretical per-student spending figure. Instead of being capped at an additional 31 percent of that per-student figure, districts can seek up to 33 percent.

They also raised those per-student spending figures by $57, up to $4,490, but only for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years. After that, the figure will revert to $4,433.

In effect, the budget deal to satisfy Gannon means that a good portion of the increase in spending, while made possible by the change in the state law to allow for a larger cap, will actually come from local tax increases. But the temporary nature of at least a portion of the deal means that the long-term planning for school districts may become difficult.

In addition, the legislative package actually decreases some funding for some classes of at-risk students, including those receiving free meals. This means that the $14 per-student increase in the state’s base funding won’t automatically translate to all students in all schools.

Choice and Bargaining Rights

As lawmakers negotiated and fought for votes to change K-12 finance and satisfy the state Supreme Court, they also decided to make dramatic, controversial shifts in policy related to both school choice and teacher policy.

The legislation creates a tax-credit scholarship program wherein private corporations can make donations to a program providing scholarships for low-income and special education students to attend private schools.

But the easing of teacher-licensure requirements and elimination of teachers’ due process rights caused an uproar at the Kansas National Education Association, although the union said it was pleased with the financial changes in the bill. The union said these changes meant the budget deal would “silence” teachers and “opens the classroom door to people without background or training.”

“We’re not opposed to taking legal recourse if that becomes necessary,” said Marcus Baltzell, a spokesman for the union.

A version of this article appeared in the April 16, 2014 edition of Education Week as Kansas K-12 Aid Deal Cheers Local Officials, Despite Uncertainties


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts What the Supreme Court Had to Say About School Board Members Blocking Constituents
The justices take up a case involving school board members who blocked some constituents from posting comments on public social media pages.
7 min read
The sun rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Nov. 10, 2020.
The sun rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Nov. 10, 2020.
Alex Brandon/AP
Law & Courts 41 States Sue Meta Over the Social Media Giant's Impact on Kids
States are suing Meta, the company behind Facebook and Instagram, saying the social media giant harms children’s mental health.
7 min read
Image of a phone on the floor near the feet of a girl sitting on the floor.
Law & Courts School Board Members' Use of Social Media Faces Key First Amendment Test in Supreme Court
The justices will decide whether school board members engaged in government action when they blocked parents who posted repetitive comments.
9 min read
The setting sun illuminates the Supreme Court building in Washington on Jan. 10, 2023.
The setting sun illuminates the Supreme Court building in Washington on Jan. 10, 2023.
Patrick Semansky/AP
Law & Courts State Judge Says 'Racially Isolated Districts Persist' in New Jersey
A state judge allows a narrowed claim to go forward that the state may be liable for pervasive racial isolation in its public schools.
7 min read
Law themed still life featuring Themis statue, judge gavel and scale of justice in a law library.
iStock / Getty Images