Lawmakers say school funding increase may be unconstitutional

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – School funding has been an ongoing topic here in Kansas and Tuesday state legislators are working towards making some definitive decisions in regards to an increase in school spending. Tuesday afternoon the Kansas Supreme Court will hear the arguments from attorneys on if this new school funding law complies with the state’s constitution.

“As a board member, I was involved with the lawsuits to challenge the state funding,” said Lynn Rogers, Wichita school board member. “This finally got the legislature to talk. For two years, the legislature has failed to even deal with funding because of the block grant, and they were supposed to redo the funding formula and didn’t do anything until the courts actually said you’ve got to do something.”

The discussion around school funding in Kansas has been going on for nearly a decade but the recent debate has been over the increase in spending on education and whether or not the amount exceeds constitutional law.

“There’s really two portions of the lawsuit adequacy and equity,” explained Rogers. “Last year, we dealt with the equity with the special session, and the courts made sure in this last scanning decision that the legislator should not do anything to effect equity.”

The law in question increases school funding by $293 million over the next 2 years. This will also create a new per pupil funding formula for 286 Kansas school districts which will put more money into programs for low performing students. In short, this money has the potential to directly effect kids in less sufficient communities.

“If it’s easier to raise money in one school district than the other, that puts the one who can’t raise the money at a disadvantage and it’s a disadvantage for kids to live in that district,” said Rogers. “So, those are the kinds of things that courts will look at and ask questions about. The state will really have to do a better job defending what they’ve written because they kind of missed the mark on some things.”

The Supreme Court session will allow for questions from both the plaintiffs and the state. The state will start off trying to defend what the legislature passed and the governor signed and the plaintiffs will be challenging the amount and things they find to be unconstitutional.

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