Court Rules State Should Increase Aid To Schools

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

Friday's court ruling that Kansas must provide more public education funding drew a mix of criticism and praise. 

In a statement, the Kansas Policy Institute said, "It is extremely unfortunate for citizens of Kansas that the court has effectively ordered an annual %594 million tax hike." 
House Minority Leader Paul Davis posted on Facebook: "Today was a huge victory for Kansas schoolchildren." 
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback criticized the ruling, saying, "The legislative process is the appropriate venue for debating and resolving issues of taxation and spending." 

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UPDATE: Friday, January 11, 2013

The State of Kansas has been ordered to provide more money to its public schools.

A three-judge panel ruled Friday the state's funding of schools is unconstitutionally low. It's the latest round in a battle over classroom funding that has been going for years.

The funding fight is likely far from over.

The state will appeal the ruling, but if it is upheld it could mean $45 million in additional funding for the Wichita public school district. That would take funding back to where it was before the district began making deep cuts four years ago.

"We've tried to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as we can," said USD 259 Board of Education President Lynn Rogers. "However, at some pint, it impacted kids."

Rogers called Friday's decision a win for Wichita kids and Kansas kids. He is hopeful the ruling that Kansas should be providing school districts nearly $4,500 per student instead of the roughly $3,800 it is providing now means USD 259 will be able to restore some of the cuts it has made since 2009.

"We've cut teachers, classrooms, buildings even," Rogers said. "We've closed four or five buildings to be able to fund what we needed to fund."

Parents also reacted with cautious optimism.

"Education is important," said Jennifer Englebright. "If the children are our future, shouldn't we invest in our future?"

Parents like Englebright say they prefer smaller class sizes for their children, something they hope increased funding will help accomplish.

"Not everybody learns at the same pace," she said. "So, I think it would be harder for everybody to keep up in a big, massive group."

Stephanie Mitchell said she feels fortunate her kids are still in small classes at O.K. Elementary in west Wichita. She also hopes more funding means it can remain that way.

"The teachers are wonderful," she said. "The kids are comfortable. The bigger schools; it's too much."

Critics of the ruling say giving schools $4,492 for each student will mean a tax hike.

"If it means better education, I'm for it," Englebright said.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A three-judge panel has ruled in favor of parents and schools who say the state's formula for funding education is unconstitutional.

Parents and school districts had argued the state has failed to live up to its promises to increase elementary and secondary education funding as ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2006. They say schools have had to make cuts that have hurt student achievement.

Friday's 245-page ruling from Shawnee County District Court will likely trigger an appeal from the state, though it's unclear how quickly that case would be heard.

In the ruling, the judges barred lawmakers from further cuts to per-pupil spending. But the ruling also acknowledged the state would likely appeal its findings.

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