Interpretations vary on KS Supreme Court education ruling

SCHOOL FUNDING

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) The amount of money going toward your child’s education could get a boost.  The state’s highest court ruled the current public school funding levels are unconstitutional, but people are interpreting this ruling in very different ways.

“Our interpretation of what the courts ruled today is that the court said that the state must fund about $129 million by July 1st,” says Joyce Eisenmenger Morrison with the Schools for Fair Funding Coalition.

That number is recommended by the Kansas Department of Education – but Governor Sam Brownback and Republican Senator Jeff King say the court’s ruling does not mention a specific amount.

“In fact it’s very clear that they’re not even requiring previous funding levels to be met,” King says.

So what still remains unclear is how much more funding, if any, needs to go into public schools.

“It’s going to be quite a while before we can resolve the entire issue,” says Senate Minority Leader, Anthony Hensley.

Hensley says the court gave clear guidance that the legislature has to equalize or balance two sources of funding – capital outlay, which is money provided to buy land, buildings or equipment and the local option budget, which is funded by property taxes.

“[That is] very important to school districts that don’t have a lot of property wealth,” Hensley says, “These are poor school districts and they’re the ones that need the most assistance.”

Brownback agrees equity is an issue – but does not believe the court is saying that more money is the solution. Others disagree.

“There are some people who will advocate that we need to go in and change the formula but I don’t think the formula is the problem,” Hensley says, “I think it’s underfunding it that’s the real problem.”

Hensley says the court gave the state a deadline of July 1st to resolve the issue of equity among schools. He interprets the courts ruling as adding more money to public education.

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