Kansas Supreme Court finds state underfunds schools

Posted March 04, 2017

"Under the facts of this case, the state's public education financing system provided by the legislature for grades K-12, through its structure and implementation, is not reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed educational standards", the court ruled.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that school funding is inadequate and unconstitutional.

Board member and state senator Lynn Rogers said this is the 11th time that courts have ruled in favor of education funding and against state lawmakers. The forum, held at the Blue Valley School District's Center for Advanced Professional Studies, had been on the books for several weeks, but became of particular interest when word came out Thursday morning that the court would at last be issuing its ruling.

This coming fall, two women from Wichita are planning to open the first Sudbury School in the state of Kansas.

Eyewitness News is following the case.

"I feel like I stretch people further trying to do more with less and it's harder on staff and they are stressed out, it's tough but we still have to provide for kids", Johnson said.

The state spends more than half its tax dollars, or almost $4.1 billion under the current budget, on aid to its 286 local school districts, for an average of about $8,900 per student.

"I don't believe we've been doing what's adequate and, in this day in age, we're going to have to spend more money to keep up with the rest of the world", she said.

"The things that jump out are things like the deadlines they've done before and the state testified that they want to make this work, that's in the opinion", Scheib said. The only answer to that - and I know the governor says again and again that we need to cut - but there is a point where cutting creates serious problems at some particular point.

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David Ottley, superintendent of Victoria USD 432, is optimistic in light of the Kansas Supreme Court's ruling Thursday.

Brownback has been critical of the state's highest court directing the Legislature on how it should fund schools.

The court ordered lawmakers to devise a plan that would meet constitutional standards by the end of June and mandated a new formula to increase government spending on the state's public education system. She is the mother of four children aged 8 to 22.

Those block grants are set to expire on July 1.

Jenkins says the school will help to fill a gap for parents who can not afford the existing private schools in Wichita, but want more for the children than a public education provides. What's uncertain is how Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature will respond. The court is charged with deciding if the law complies with the constitution.

"The Kansas Supreme Court correctly observes that our education system has failed to provide a suitable education for the lowest performing 25 percent of students".

School board president Sheril Logan said the future of the state is dependent on children receiving a 21st Century education.

But school administrators maintain that increased funds will help support struggling students, including the roughly one-fourth of public school students who lack basic math and reading skills that the Supreme Court cited in its decision.

In Wichita, community activist Djuan Wash pointed to the court's finding that a significant percentage of minority students aren't proficient in reading and math. "Plaintiffs have also proven by substantial competent evidence that the student performance reflected in this data is related to funding levels".