We have a good school funding formula in Kansas
Shawnee County District Court ruled recently that the State of Kansas is inadequately funding the state's K-12 public schools.
The court's ruling reaffirmed what many Kansans, especially those in the education field, already believed.
In the lawsuit known as the Gannon case, the district court's ruling said the state cannot, and should not, rely on local option taxation to ensure that all Kansas children are receiving an adequate, fair and equal education opportunity in the state.
Local option budgets allows individual school boards and voters the option to raise additional local tax funds to supplement a district's regular general fund budget.
Originally, local option budgets were allowed for individual districts to cover the costs of things above and beyond what the state would fund.
The Kansas State Department of Education warned school districts from using LOB funds for salaries just in case local voters ever said no to the extra taxation. However, LOB funds are now routinely being used for salaries and many districts earlier received taxpayer approval for continuous LOB taxation, although courts have now ruled that is not constitutional.
Many school officials say it has become necessary to use LOB funds for salaries and other basic school needs because the state aid - base state aid per pupil to schools - has fallen from $4,400 per student in the 2009-10 school term to the current level of $3,852 per student.
The cuts to Kansas education started in 2009 as the United States and Kansas economies suffered through the Great Recession. Some federal education funds helped prop up the state education funds for a few years, but now have ceased.
Actions taken by the governor and the State Legislature since then indicate a belief that LOB funding should count toward the state's constitutional duty to adequately fund all public schools.
"The LOB portion of the Kansas school finance formula is not so sufficiently designed today, nor was it structurally originally intended, to stand as a fail-safe funding mechanism that would assure each and every K-12 student the education our Kansas constitution commands and is designed to ensure,'' the district court judges wrote.
The district court ruling will likely be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court. In the meantime, the Legislature (with the backing of the governor) may seek to overhaul the school funding formula in the upcoming legislative session.
The state started messing with the school funding formula in 2008 when the recession hit, when it stopped making its full equalization payments to school districts in non-metroplitan areas of the state - called the poorer districts. The Kansas Supreme Court ordered the state to restore that funding in 2014.
It seems to me that the place to start is for the state to fully fund the state aid formula that we already have.
Not so long ago, Kansas had a good K-12 education formula - and was proud to fully fund it.