TOPEKA, Kan. — A Shawnee County District Court consisting of a three-judge panel ruled on Tuesday that the state is not spending enough on its schools.
The state budget was a highly contested issue during the mid-term elections, and the aggressive personal income tax cuts put in place by Gov. Sam Brownback almost cost him re-election. This court ruling could complicate his effort to curb spending.
There is a little history to the Kansas courts stepping in and ruling that education spending wasn’t adequate enough. This goes all the way back to 1972 where a Johnson County District Court finds the Kansas public education funding system unconstitutional in Caldwell v. State of Kansas.
Since then, the state has been challenged on their education spending, and they have responded by an increase in spending on each account.
However, in recent years the state has been directed to use a per-pupil spending model starting at $4,492 per student. Current spending levels are down to $3,852 per student due to rising teacher pension costs. Add in those costs and the state is spending $13,269 per pupil.
In total, $3.4 billion is being spent on education by the state. And that number reflects a recent increase in funding in order to meet rising teacher pension costs. Spending within lower income district received an increase of $129 million for the year.
But that’s not liberal enough in the eyes of these three judges and that spending should be increased by an additional $548 million to $771 million a year.
In fact, this panel has declared in their 139 page ruling that it is “inadequate from any rational perspective of the evidence.”
They also stated that the state has failed to meet its obligations so declared in the Kansas Constitution. This is in reference to a more recent passing of the Rose standards contained in HB 2506, citing that the level of funding does not adequately provide “sufficient training or preparation for advanced training in either academic or vocational fields so as to enable each child to choose and pursue life work intelligently.”
Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute says that the court failed to take into account that many districts within the state don’t have a method to measure the success of the Rosestandards. In fact, some districts have asked for “the development of a system to define and measure…” the Rose standards.
Also not taken into account by the court is that some districts are not spending all of their operating funds, and the inefficiency at which districts operate.
When asked, Gov. Brownback responded by saying, “I continue to believe that restructuring the school funding formula and implementing education policy reforms is critical not only to getting more money into our classrooms but also improving student achievement. I will be working with legislative leadership to address the best path forward.”
This article is posted with permission from ANM News.