Kansans are contributing an increasingly large chunk of income to support public schools that are nonetheless below average in classroom spending, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Monday.
More about school finance
- Webcast of live arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court (requires Windows Media Player)
- Brief of the Montoy suit (.pdf)
- Timeline of events in school finance lawsuit
- 6News video: School finance bill to face court
- Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade (06-13-06)
- State wants high court to dismiss school suit (06-02-06)
- Legislature approves school finance plan (05-10-06)
- Chat with Bob Corkins, Kansas Education Commissioner (02-02-06)
- House roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan (07-07-05)
- Supt. Weseman's contingency plan (07-06-05)
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- Conference Committee on Senate Bill 549
- House bill info
- Senate bill info
- Kansas public schools cost study
- Kansas public schools cost study executive summary
- Public Education Finances 2004 (.pdf)
- Senate roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan
- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
- Supreme Court's Order Denying Extension (.pdf)
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
- Supplemental Note on Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
House Speaker Doug Mays said that should concern state residents who might have to pay even more to help the Kansas Legislature comply with a court order to increase school funding.
"If the courts have their way, we certainly will (have) a significantly larger burden" on taxpayers, he said.
State residents paid $54.17 of every $1,000 they earned to support K-12 schools - better than the national average of $50.53, good for 15th in the nation. But Kansas spent $7,518 per student, below the national average of $8,217.
The Legislature adjourned last week without passage of a spending bill. Monday's Census numbers probably won't affect the debate, said state Sen. Janis Lee, D-Kensington, the ranking member on the Senate Education Committee.
"The issue before the Kansas Legislature is to respond to the needs of the children, but also the requirements of the court," she said. "Whether (the Census) will have an effect on the court, I seriously doubt it."
Alan Rupe, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the school finance suit, agreed.
"Those numbers don't affect the debate; the debate is over the adequacy of funding as defined by the Kansas Constitution," he said.
While Kansas has hung around the middle of the pack in per-pupil spending in recent years, ranking 31st in the newest listing, it has climbed the charts in the amount paid by state residents - from 26th in 2002 to 15th in Monday's report.
"It's hard to reconcile those two things," Mays said.
The state has relatively low incomes and property values, two sources of the taxes that pay for schools; the median cost of a home here is $83,000, compared to $119,000 nationally. That forces residents to pay a higher portion of their incomes to allow schools to keep pace with other states.
Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman said Kansas residents are paying such a high price, in part, because the state lacks the tourism to generate income from out-of-state residents.
"To me, you don't have many choices" to increase funding, Weseman said. "You either take more of what the people are making, or you expand the infrastructure of economy to help out with that."
Does that mean offering more gambling opportunities?
"Not necessarily," Rupe said. "To me, it is a source of income. Gambling would be a source of income that wouldn't necessarily be on Kansans' shoulders."
One observer found good news in Monday's numbers. State Sen. John Vratil, the Republican vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, noted that Kansas students typically score well on nationwide achievement tests, even with the low funding.
"It tells me," he said, "that Kansas teachers and Kansas students are doing a pretty good job."
The Legislature will return for its wrap-up session on April 26.