Danedri Thompson
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Attempts to resolve a school funding lawsuit against the state of Kansas fell short last week. According to a mediation status report filed by the parties May 1, mediation “was unsuccessful.”
Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed the lawsuit and requested mediation after a three-judge panel found that recent cuts to school funding were unconstitutional. The January ruling would require the state legislature to provide at least $4,492 in funding per pupil in Kansas public schools, or a $442 million increase in state funding. Currently, the state provides $3,838 in base aid per pupil.
School attendance numbers are weighted based on a variety of criteria including the distance some students travel to school and the percentage of students who utilized free and reduced lunch programs. The Court’s decision also requires the state to fully restore capital outlay state aid, adopt an inflationary measure to ensure state funding to schools keeps pace with rising costs, and would disallow changes to the school funding formula that would result in less funding.
The Gardner Edgerton School District joined 51 other Kansas public schools in the lawsuit. USD 231 is the only Johnson County school district to take part in Schools for Fair Funding (SFFF), the lobbying organization that filed the suit.
The lawsuit is familiar territory for the state and SFFF. The organization sued the state in 2003 saying state funding at the time was not equitable. The case was dismissed in 2006 after legislators agreed to inject $755 million more in state funding to schools over the course of three years. Much of that additional funding has since been cut.
The state is appealing the January ruling that ruled current funding is unsuitable. The court will hear the appeal in October.
Meanwhile, members of the Kansas Legislature return to Topeka this week to wrap-up the 2013 session. Legislators have yet to adopt a 2014 budget, however Brownback’s budget proposal maintains the current base state aid per weighted pupil of $3,838.