July 20, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Newton Kansan Warns Schools May Close

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The Newton Kansan warns readers schools will close unless lawmakers pony up more than $750 million in less than five years.

The paper quotes Rep. Tim Hodge, a Newton Democrat, who serves on the USD 373 Board of Education. He says he’s read the Kansas Supreme Court ruling that says the existing school funding isn’t adequately calculated. Hodge told the paper that he doesn’t think the plan to add $750 million in funding over the next five years will pass constitutional muster.

“From my reading of the case and talking with other folks, there is no way that will pass constitutional muster,” Hodge said. “Out of the plans produced, they are unlikely to pass constitutional scrutiny. I liken it to someone given a court order to pay $1,000 to the other party and they insist on only paying $500. The court will not look favorably on a party that insists on paying half or less of what they owe.”

The Kansas Supreme Court didn’t specify a dollar amount when it ruled existing school funding isn’t adequately calculated.

Except, the Court didn’t specify a dollar amount. The Court’s opinion reads, “Our adequacy test…rejects any litmus test that relies on specific funding levels to reach constitutional compliance.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is an attorney who also read the ruling. In a press release shortly after the ruling, Schmidt said “the ruling implies that the main focus needs to be on better educating those kids who are performing poorly.”

Schmidt said the legislature needs to ‘show its work’ in creating a formula. That, he said, will “demonstrate to the Supreme Court how the legislative choices are reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed performance standards adopted by the Supreme Court.”

The Kansan article doesn’t quote anyone who disagrees with Hodge’s interpretation. Instead, the Kansan reporter quotes fear mongers. Hodge warns schools may be closed this fall if the legislature adopts a funding mechanism that doesn’t include at least $750 million in less than five years.

“If the Republican led super majorities can not come up with a plan that is constitutional, then the schools may very well close in the fall. … I don’t think [Legislators] realize that could happen, and that is a real problem. They can’t fathom that schools may not open in the fall. Therein lies part of the problem.”

Legislators may not “fathom” that schools might not open this fall, because the Supreme Court didn’t make that threat in its latest ruling. The full 83-page ruling is available here.








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