February 13, 2016

Courts decide: State must provide additional funds to public schools

Danedri Thompson
The state of Kansas will appeal a district court ruling on public school funding.
The ruling, issued Jan. 14, would require the state legislature to provide at least $4,492 in funding per pupil in Kansas public schools. Currently, the state provides $3,838 per pupil. School attendance numbers are weighted based on a variety of criteria including the distance some students travel to schools and the percentage of students who utilize free and reduced lunch programs.
The Court’s decision would also require the state to fully restore capital outlay state aid, adopt an inflationary measure to ensure school funding keeps pace with rising costs, and would disallow changes to the school funding formula that would result in less funding.
In their ruling, a panel of three Shawnee District Court Justices, wrote:
“The state of Kansas is hereby enjoined, from performing the unconstitutional act of enacting any appropriation, or directing, modifying or canceling any transfer, or using any accounting mechanism or other practice that would will, or may in due course, affect, effect or fund less than the base student aid per pupil of $4,492.”
The Gardner-Edgerton School District joined 51 other schools in the lawsuit. It is the only Johnson County school district to take part in Schools for Fair Funding, the organization suing the state in the lawsuit.
It is unfortunate that litigation was required to ensure Kansas schools are appropriately funded, GE superintendent Bill Gilhaus said.
“The current level of school funding makes it difficult to continue to provide the level of services and resources our children deserve to prepare them for the future,” he said. “…It would be our hope the constitutional standard to provide a ‘suitable’ education to all Kansas public school students is preserved.”
Gilhaus told school board members during a meeting on Jan. 14 that since 2001, state aid per pupil has only increased $18.
“I think most of us would agree looking at our own personal finances there has been an increase in costs – food, gas, utilities, clothing,” he said. “Those kinds of analogies carry over to school districts. Very few things get less expensive.”
For example, he said now state testing requires the use of lap tops.
The president of one Kansas think-tank, Kansas Policy Institute, said the court’s decision could result in an annual $594 million tax hike.
“It costs a lot of money to operate our schools, but its how the money is spent that matters, no simply how much,” KPI President Dave Trabert said in a statement.
The state is appealing the court’s decision.
“Why can’t they understand that we are not lying when we say, ‘we don’t have enough funding to take care of all of the things they want us to do,’” GE board member Mary Herbert said.
Gov. Sam Brownback called the court’s decision “disappointing, but not unexpected.”
“The Kansas Legislature, not the courts, has the power of the purse, and has, in fact, increased total state funding for schools every year during my administration,” Brownback said in a press release. “The legislative process is the appropriate venue for debating and resolving issues of taxation and spending.”
Ron Ragan, board president, said he believes it is “sickening” that “it takes judges to tell the state of Kansas how to fund education in the state of Kansas.”
He added, “If children are not our number one priority in this state, then what is?”
The 2013 Kansas Legislature convened for the first time on Jan. 14. The 90-day session will likely conclude before the school funding case is heard by the Kansas Supreme Court.


  1. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Memo to empty-pockets Kansas school districts: Don’t hold your breath. Start thinking about bake sale fund-raisers.

    On the opening day of the new legislature, the Republicans have already hatched a plan to shirk their responsibility to comply with the court order to obey the constitution and appropriately fund our schools. GOP leaders “confirmed Monday that conservative Republicans who control the Legislature will seek to revise the state constitution to rein in the courts. That would entail a two-thirds vote in each chamber that then would send the matter to voters as a ballot referendum that would pass with a majority vote.”


  2. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Last year, Brownback’s Republican-controlled legislature cut state income tax rates that also eliminated income taxes for 191,000 business owners. This week, despite the resulting revenue shortfalls, the governor proposed cutting income tax rates even more, towards his ultimate goal of eliminating the state income tax altogether. He also proposed abolishing home mortgage interest tax deductions and taking $245 million from the state highway fund over the next two years and using it for public school funding, including special education. His budget director assured legislators that the transfer of KDOT funds would have zero impact on the construction of planned highway projects. However, Brownback announced yesterday that schools will receive no increase in base state aid for the 2013-14 school year and a small increase ($14 per student) in 2014-15.

  3. Why is our school district spending money on litigation to sue us? WE are the State of Kansas. This is ridiculous. The court system should let our ELECTED representation determine responsible levels of taxation and funding. Who else besides Kansas state citizens through our elected representation are in the best position to determine what is a ‘suitable’ level of funding for our school system. Our local school districts should not waste precious money on lawsuits against their own constituents. Learn to live within your budget Dr. Gilhaus, just like we all have to every day.

  4. He has almost a quarter million salary, I think his budget is much bigger than mine. Greed. Greed. Greed. Pay the teachers. Buy books.

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