A Kansas district court panel recently ruled that the state is not spending enough money on its public education system and that more money is needed to ensure that every child receives a quality education.
According to the ruling, the current spending falls short of the "Rose standards" that had been outlined in a previous case and used in courts across the state. The standards say that all students in the state should have equal access to language skills, social studies, health and additional subjects in order to function and contribute to society.
"We find the Kansas public education financing system – through structure and implementation – is not presently reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed the Rose factors," the Shawnee County District Court panel concluded in Gannon v. Kansas. "It is inadequate from any rational perspective of the evidence presented or proffered to us."
The ruling could mean that the state needs to increase its spending by hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Lawmakers in the state are currently looking at a $648 million budget deficit for next year. While educators and Democrats approved the ruling, Republicans said it was politically motivated and that it would have been a better option to rewrite the school finance law.
While a "brightline" amount of funding was written into the ruling, the judges did not specify how much would need to be added to reach it, writes Dion Lefler for The Wichita Eagle.
The ruling did suggest some fixes for the Legislature, including the option of increasing base state aid per student to $4,654 from where it currently sits at $3,852 in addition to increasing weightings, or the money given to each district based on the specific needs of each school, such as the number of special needs students. Or, the weightings could remain the same and the base state aid could increase to $4,980.
John Robb, the attorney for Schools for Fair Funding, said the suggestion would cost the state between $548 million and $771 million each year. "I think they're just telling the Legislature that if you do this, the problem will go away."
The ruling is expected to be appealed, reports Brad Cooper for The Kansas City Star.
"We are disappointed by today's ruling by the panel, which in areas seems in tension with the Kansas Supreme Court's guidance," Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a short statement Tuesday afternoon.
However, not everyone found the ruling so objectionable. Lynn Rogers, vice president of the Wichita school board, agreed with the decision, saying that increasing the quality of schools would have a good effect on the local economy and property values. He added that the ruling upheld the principle that "it doesn't matter what the ZIP code is, all kids require a quality education."