Protecting Public Education in Kansas
Kansas Families for Education
For Immediate Release
Education advocates applaud Court’s decision
It’s time to put the state back on course and fund our schools.
SHAWNEE, Kan. – Kansas Families for Education (KFE) members are pleased with the court’s decision today. The ruling is clear.
According to the decision, “the continuing, and presently existing, legislative failure to set the BSAPP (Base State Aid Per Pupil) at a higher level and/or adjust the weightings to be applied upward in support of producing a district’s general fund represents a glaring constitutional flaw in implementation of the K-12 school finance system.” The court noted the administration and legislature’s interest in finding efficiencies, but stated “nothing in this case impedes independent inquiry into efficiencies, but the State’s constitutional duty of providing a constitutionally adequate K-12 education cannot wait on the resolution of better or less expensive methods to its end.”
The court ruled that the state was providing a constitutionally adequate level of funding when the BSAPP was $4,492 in July 2008. Since then, a combination of inflation and legislative budget cuts have brought the state out of compliance with its constitution. Accounting for inflation, the court stated that “a BSAPP near $4654 could be appropriate, but only so if it was also accompanied by selective and relevant upward changes in weightings such as to meet the obvious needs of the Plaintiffs” and similar Kansas school districts.
Rather than order the state to change the BSAPP to the higher figure, however, the court directed the legislature and administration to put itself into compliance with the law: “We are not directing an exact BSAPP figure nor are we directing any exact method to any funding, but rather only noting parameters which should be considered in formulation to avoid unconstitutional results … whether, and how, that overall obligation is to be shared or imposed is a matter for the legislature after consulting with their constituents.”
The court also noted that the state’s current fiscal dilemma is “self-imposed” and warned that “Since the obligations here declared emanate from our Kansas Constitution, avoidance is not an option.”
KFE has been advocating for public school funding for nearly 13 years. KFE filed an amicus brief in the Montoy case, in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of students and school districts. That ruling led the state legislature to meet its constitutional obligations with an infusion of funding in 2006 which helped school districts around the state to meet the needs of all students.
“We have watched the legislature reduce school funding back to 1992 levels and we’ve watched rising class sizes, closure of buildings and the elimination of programs. As a retired science teacher, I know that without adequate resources from the state, we can’t meet the needs of all our students,” said Al Frisby, KFE board member.
“The state’s argument that the funding formula is unsustainable just doesn’t hold water. The legislature passed and the Governor signed tax cuts for the few, rather than funding the law they passed, which requires the state to pay the actual cost of educating our children,” said Barbara Thompson, KFE member who works with student teachers in Kansas.
Kansas Families for Education understands that even with the court ruling, the decision likely will be appealed by the state to the Supreme Court. The fight for adequate funding for our schools will take place in the State Capitol. The group expects there will be attempts to change the formula based on the Governor’s recent statements. Others in the legislature will try to privatize education; redefine the constitution’s requirement that the legislature provide “suitable provision for finance” of education; repeal Article 6 of the constitution, which sets the “suitable” standard; and to punish the courts for ruling in favor of parents, children and families.
“The Kansas legislature has a choice to make: Carry on the proud tradition of great public schools for ALL our children, or continue down a path of unsustainable tax cuts for a few.” said Kathy Cook, KFE Board member. “The school finance formula is not broken. Our tax system is broken,” added Cook.
” The Kansas Legislature should not react hastily to this decision, but instead wait until the appeal process is complete or any action taken could be nullified by the Supreme Court,” Cook said.