Kansas Court Rules Governor Must Refinance Budget to Better Fund Education

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback continues to get more flak for his radical budget-cutting experiment as the US Supreme Court has ruled—once again—that the state has not adequately funded public school operations; and by several hundred million dollars a year.

In an unsigned, but unanimous, opinion, the court said, “We conclude the state’s public financing system, through its structure and implementation, is not reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed the minimum constitutional standards of adequacy.”

In addition, the judges said that by underfunding education the state system has failed in at least a quarter of all its public schools which would have allowed for appropriate basic reading and math education. And on top of that, the court also said that the system has shortchanged between a third and one half of the state’s minority students (of color).

With that in mind then, the court has ordered lawmakers to devise a new plan aimed to meet constitutional standards by the end of June, perhaps just in time for the new school year. The mandate will require the state public education system to discern a new formula that will lead to increased government spending for the state’s public education system.

John Robb is an attorney for the school districts involved in this case. He comments that his ruling most certainly represents “justice for kids.” He also goes on to note that the state of Kansas could now be forced to spend between $431 million and $893 million a year in more education funding; it just depends on how lawmakers calculate what the spending should be per pupil.

Governor Brownback—in addition with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers—comments that this decision puts emphasis on the need for lawmakers to draft a new formula for finance.

The court’s statement continues, “Under the facts of this case, the state’s public education financing system provided by the Legislature for grades K-12, through its structure and implementation, is not reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed [educational standards].”
Of course, this is not really the best time for any state to have to magically find another half a billion dollars to pour into education. And Brownback has vetoed a package of tax increases that passed through both the House and Senate.

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