There’s probably no way Kansas legislators can escape Topeka without adding millions in additional spending to the state’s bottom line.
The funding increases come at the hands of the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled funding for Kansas schools was not equitable.
Legislators are still discussing how they will equalize funding between poorer and wealthier public school districts. They’ll also debate ways to ensure school funding is suitable.
State education officials estimate Kansas schools need an immediate injection of approximately $130 million to meet the demands of the state Supreme Court. We suspect legislators will spend the remainder of the 2014 session figuring out whether that number is a good one.
Unfortunately, their hands were forced by a court, which determined that justices should have a say in the dollars state legislators allocate.
It seems backwards to us.
The court’s opinion did, however, say that all education funding – not just base state aid per pupil can be considered to determined what is equitable and adequate. That leaves room for legislators to make adjustments to the school funding formula.
That needs to happen, if not this year then certainly during the next legislative session.
Kansas’ clunky school funding formula deems that each student is worth a set weighted amount. Student attendance numbers are then weighted using demographics, including English as a second language students and those who qualify for free and reduced school lunches. The formula itself creates incentives for school districts to put as many students as possible into special programs that garner additional funding.
It’s a mess, and it’s so complicated that it’s difficult for the typical taxpayer to understand how their money is spent.
Both Democrats and Republicans in the Kansas Legislature appear to agree that there are problems with the way state schools are funded. Everyone seems to agree that more money should be funneled to teachers and classrooms.
Hopefully they can reach a compromise that doesn’t take additional dollars out of the pockets of Kansas residents.