Court rules school finance formula is unconstitutional
The state’s new school finance formula is unconstitutionally low and unfair to poor school districts, according to Monday’s ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court, it was reported.
The court ruled that the state has failed to meet the Kansas Constitution’s requirements to adequately fund public education.
The ruling for Gannon vs. Kansas orders state lawmakers to fix the formula by next April 30 so that there’s time for the justices to review it before districts run out of money.
The ruling also orders a fairer distribution of state funding to ensure that students in poor districts have the same educational opportunities as students in wealthier districts.
While the court has not specified a certain dollar amount that would be deemed constitutional, the justices approached the budget in two parts – adequacy (the overall amount of funding for schools) and equity (whether the funds are distributed fairly between wealthy and poor districts).
The court ruled the Legislature had failed on both counts but has not provided specific fixes.
In June, state lawmakers passed a new school finance formula that included adding $293 million in aid to the public education budget by 2019.
The justices said that the Legislature has failed to show equity in funding because the new formula allows districts to expand the use of local option budgets (LOB) to fund school budget.
This allows wealthier districts to generate larger amounts of money with just minor property tax increases because of high property valuations.
Meanwhile, poorer and rural districts, such as those in Jackson County, are unable to raise funds easily the same way.
In November 2010, 48 school districts co-sponsored the Gannon vs. Kansas case, which argues that the state is underfunding schools.