Law & Courts

Kansans Brace for Judges’ July 18 Hearing on New School Funding Formula

By Daarel Burnette II — June 26, 2017 2 min read
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Kansas’ Supreme Court will hear on July 18 arguments for the constitutionality of a new funding formula that adds $285 million over the next two years to school districts’ budget, ramps up school accountability sanctions, and provides $10 million in state scholarships for students in academically struggling schools to attend a school of their choice.

The legislature which passed that package of education changes in its most recent session, adjourned Monday.

The decision will come soon after that.

Earlier this year, the court said in the Gannon v. Kansas case that the state’s existing $4 billion block-grant funding formula inadadequately provided its schools with enough money to get students to meet minimal state standards.

Proponents of the new funding formula, which Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law last week, say the new formula addresses judges’ concerns that the amount wasn’t enough and that it was distributed in a way that left more than a quarter of the state’s students’ academically unprepared for careers or colleges.

But opponents of the funding formula, particularly the state’s school board association and lawyers for the four districts who originally sued, say the formula is far from the $400 million over the next two years they think is needed to improve student outcomes.

“The legislature needs to dig deeper into its pocketbook and reach higher with its goals in order not to sacrifice another generation of Kansas kids to an inadequately funded school system,” said Alan Rupe, an attorney for the four districts who originally sued, according to the Associated Press. “While we appreciate the effort of the Kansas legislature, the simple fact is, it is not enough.”

If the judges reject the funding formula, there’s a risk the state’s schools would have to shut down with no funding formula in place.

Meanwhile, the Kansas News Service points out in a story about a severe teacher shortage, that, with an average $40,900 salaries, teachers in rural Kansas, according to the Rural School and Community Trust, are among the lowest-paid in the country.

Washington’s state legislature is in special session in an attempt to address that state supreme court’s 2012 ruling that the funding formula. Failure to do so before June 30 could result in a statewide shutdown of all government services.

Correction: The original version of this blog post incorrectly stated that the decision will come July 18. That’s the date of the oral arguments.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.