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Breaking It Down: Kansas School Funding Lawsuit


In Kansas, 54 school districts are currently suing the state for cutting their funding. The state has budgeted $3,800 per student for the coming school year. 

That’s down $500 per student from four years ago, and many Kansas teachers say it’s nowhere near the amount needed to properly educate students. But K-12 education takes up half the state’s threadbare budget, say many legislators. And with state revenues dropping dramatically, something’s got to give. Peter Hancock has been covering the issue for the Kansas Education Policy Report.

Here’s how the K-12 school funding debate has progressed during the past few years:

  1. In 2005, in Montoy v. Kansas, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a ruling which said the state was not fulfilling its Constitutionally-mandated obligation to “make suitable provision for finance of the education interests of the state.”
  2. The court ordered an increase in school funding which amounted to $750 million a year. They created a system in which urban districts and districts with high-needs students would receive a greater share of the state’s education funding.
  3. Following the increase in funding, Kansas saw higher test scores among minorities, lower-income students and special education students.
  4. The Supreme Court decision was criticized for breaching the separation of powers. Critics say the court shouldn’t have been allowed to order changes to the budget.
  5. Responding to the recession of 2007-2009, Kansas governors Mark Parkinson and Sam Brownback ordered cuts to the Kansas budget.
  6. For the coming school year, the budget has allowed a small increase in the state aid per student. For 2012-2013, districts will receive $3,838 for student. That’s down from a high of $4,438 in the 2008-2009 school year. 
  7. Fifty-four districts are now suing again for an increase in the state’s K-12 education budget. A three-judge panel heard testimony from June 4th to 28th.
  8. As in Montoy v. Kansas, the defense argued that higher funding does not equal better education.
  9. On July 10th, the State Board of Education recommended a $440 million increase in state aid to schools.
  10. The three-judge panel will hear final arguments in the school board case in late August. A decision is expected in November. Regardless of the decision, it will probably be appealed.

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KCCurrents podcast.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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