TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – If half a billion dollars seems like a lot, attorneys on both sides would agree that it is a large sum.
But should the state pay more for Kansas public education?
Depends on who answers the question.
“And conclude that the funding was adequate in 2012 and that it’s adequate today,” said State of Kansas defense attorney Steve McAllister. “And that this part of the case should be dismissed.”
Attorneys who are suing on behalf of schools like USD 259 in Wichita, say they have a different take.
“We are nearly $800 million short in terms of money to public education,” says Alan Rupe, attorney for Schools for Fair Funding. “And we have decreasing achievement.”
Rupe has long said Kansas schools have been above average in achievement and says he applauds the efforts to get more money into education. But, he maintained in the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday, schools have fallen behind.
“But in 2009, when the Governor and the Legislature began to cut public education funding, the test scores began to flat line,” said Rupe.
Rupe made the correlation that money for schools can buy the things that equate to success in the classroom.
The state defense maintained that it’s up to lawmakers to determine funding, and, they have. A majority of lawmakers two sessions ago voted to put in a so-called block “grant” of funding for schools.
Lawmakers said they would “soon” have a new school funding formula in place a year and a half ago. Governor Sam Brownback just last month announced he wanted input on a new school finance formula that is yet to be named.
On Wednesday, while defense attorneys said lawmakers should decide school finance, some of the Supreme Court justices asked why the court should not decide.
But other justices alluded to what may be coming.
“If we do send it back to the legislature, with some guidance, what kind of a time frame are we looking at?” Chief Justice Lawton Nuss asked attorneys. “Then a year from now, you’re back up here saying they (Lawmakers) didn’t do anything?”
Court clerks said the justices will give no indication at this time of what may come next. Nor would the court say what options could come next. From previous lawsuits over school funding, options include but are not limited to talking to lawmakers, talking to a lower court that earlier ruled schools were not adequately funded, or simply wait until later in the year to make a decision.
Schools say they will just have to wait and see.
“Of course, we are very interested in the outcome here today,” said USD 259 Superintendent John Allison. “but the underlying issue is does the state have the revenues to fund a (new lawmaker school funding) formula? The previous formula we had worked exceptionally well. It was just never funded.”
KSN will follow the courts and let you know when there is a decision from Topeka.