Archive for Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade

Lawsuit contends legislation provides inadequate funding

June 13, 2006


— Kansas public schools will be shortchanged by nearly $1 billion over the next three years, according to plaintiff school districts that have sued the state.

The districts have asked the Kansas Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the Legislature's recent school finance bill that would increase school funding by $466 million over the next three years.

But the legislation - known as Senate Bill 549 - fails to adequately and equitably fund schools, attorneys Alan Rupe and John Robb argued.

Their 78-page legal brief will be part of the record, along with the state's filings and numerous others, in preparation for oral arguments before the court June 22.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled the school finance system unconstitutional because it shortchanges all students, especially those in low-income areas.

It ordered lawmakers to fund schools at the actual cost of providing an education.

Last week, the state filed its legal brief, saying the recent "massive increase" in funding and changes in how those funds are spent have adequately addressed the court's concerns. Attorneys representing the Attorney General's Office and the Legislature said the court should deem the school finance law constitutional and end the lawsuit, which started in 1999.

But school districts that successfully sued the state say the newest increase is not nearly enough, and the way the funds are distributed worsens the problem of unequal funding.

"The bill's funding is not allocated based on the actual and necessary costs of providing a suitable education," Rupe and Robb said.

"In fact, the funding is distributed in such an inequitable manner that it exacerbates the unconstitutional disparities existing in the system prior to the adoption of SB 549.

"The state calls this inequitable distribution of funds a 'political or public policy question.' The Plaintiffs call it unconstitutional."

For example, a cost-study showed the state needed to increase funding by $195.3 million for programs aimed at students at risk of failing. But the legislation increased that amount by $49.3 million.

While districts with large proportions of at-risk students are getting shortchanged, smaller and mostly rural districts are getting more than the cost study said they actually need, the attorneys argued.

But Rupe and Robb argue that for the next school year, the new finance bill shorts schools by $276 million. Cumulatively, the bill would provide $985 million less than the actual and necessary costs of schools over the next three years, they said. Annual state funding of schools currently is about $3 billion.


johngalt 12 years ago

Why isn't $10,000 per student enough?

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

The Kansas City, KS school district was one of the districts very unpleased with the recent legislative bill approved.

It would have amounted to a mere approximate $15 million increase.

While a simple-minded person says, "well gosh, that's $15 million dollars more than you had before," it still is not equitable to what other districts are receiving around the state.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

johngalt-- I love your number $10,000!!!! Illinois school districts have expenditures per student at about $12,-15,000/per student, PER YEAR.

At last count, the KCK district had about 19,500 students enrolled (virtually all at-risk).

19,500 x $10,000 = $195,000,000

Um, we're being short-changed by just a few dollars I would say.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

Example of a public high school district in IL...advocating for my push to restructure funding. Rely less on the ineffective State Legislature and move to local control of taxes!!

LEYDEN COMM H S DIST 212 District Enrollment (2005): 3,497 2005 District Financial Information-RevenuePercentages

Local Property Taxes 73.4% $35,155,602 Commercial/Ind. Tax 18.0% $8,609,777 General State Aid 2.2% $1,031,515 Other State Funding 4.9% $2,350,370 Federal Funding 1.6% $753,251

As a side note: Avg. years of teaching experience: 11 yrs. Avg. teacher salary: $78,148 Avg. % of teachers w/ Master's degrees: 63%

While I'm certainly not declaring the Illinois funding system to be the best way...there still must be a better way to adaquately fund the Kansas public schools AND compensate teachers with education/experience appropriately.

Bobo Fleming 12 years ago

I think that all the schools should have an Opera company. I think Grand Opera would be a very good thing. If I can convence the Supreme Court they can order Grand Opera in every class. Why leave these things up to elected representatives when we can have decisions made from above. These special people in the Courts have a lot better idea then us sweaty folks about whats in good taste, and what people really need, and how they should spend their money. Thats abolish the legislature and turn this all over to our friends on the Court for wise and thoughtfull decisions.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

For senegal:

The Supreme Court is Kansas's highest court. It consists of seven justices, each of whom is selected by the governor. He appoints from a list of three qualified individuals submitted to him by the Supreme Court Nomination Commission. After the first year in office, a justice is subject to a retention vote in the next general election. If a majority of electors votes to retain the justice, he or she remains in office for a term of six years. Justices are subject to a similar retention vote at the conclusion of each term.

The justice who is senior in terms of continuous service is designated by the Constitution as the chief justice, unless he or she declines or resigns the position. The chief justice exercises the administrative authority of the court.

wbob 12 years ago

I wonder why the Governor signed this bill, if in fact it is unconstitutional.

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