Law & Courts

Kansas Legislature Attempts to Answer State’s Supreme Court Ruling on Funding

By Daarel Burnette II — March 10, 2016 1 min read
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First, Kansas politicians squawked when the state’s supreme court ruled its school funding formula inequitable.

Now, it appears, they’re working to come up with an answer, according to the Associated Press. But many question if the proposals are enough.

Kansas lawmakers Wednesday proposed two answers to the state supreme court’s February ruling, which said the state underfunded poor districts by at least $54 million last school year. The state must come up with money by June, or risk having the court effectively shut the schools down.

The House appropriations committee agreed Wednesday to sponsor a plan by Rep. Ron Ryckman, a Republican, to increase the state’s spending by $37 million this fall.

An alternative plan, currently being designed by Sen. Ty Masterson, a Republican, would reallocate the state’s education spending among the state’s 286 school districts.

Both plans, according to the AP, would create winners and losers. Under Masterson’s plan, 100 districts would get more money and 186 districts would lose money. Under Ryckman’s plan, just 79 districts would lose money.

But Democratic Sen. Anthony Hensley told the AP that neither proposal would provide the state’s poor districts with enough money.

“It’s a very bad idea, and it doesn’t come close to complying with the supreme court’s order,” Hensley said, according to the AP. Hensley said the state owes its poor districts close to $110 million, making up for shortfalls during the 2015-16 school year and next school year.

Lawyers for Dodge City, Hutchinson, Kansas City, and Witchita, the four poor districts that filed the original lawsuit, said the court’s ruling implies that the state owes for the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, totaling $163 million.

The court has yet to rule on another part of the long-running lawsuit, Gannon v. State of Kansas, dealing with adequacy of funding, which would require the legislature to increase its aid to education by $548 million.

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