December 1, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Schools Demand More Funding in KS Supreme Court Brief

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Attorneys who sued the state for additional school funding filed a brief saying a newly-adopted funding formula falls short of adequacy. Alan Rupe and John Robb, attorneys for the plaintiffs in the long-litigated school finance case, wrote in a brief that the legislature’s injection of an additional $293 million “significantly underfunds Kansas public education.”

They write that the lowest estimate of what is adequate to fund schools is $893 million in new funding over the next two years.

“In other words, schools think the $1.2 billion income tax hike just foisted on citizens isn’t near enough; they’d like to see it almost doubled,” Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, says.

In a March opinion, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that block grant school funding was inadequate, though justices stopped short of requiring a specific dollar amount necessary to meet that standard. Instead, Justices wrote school funding should be “adequately calculated.”

Lawmakers adopted a new funding formula in early June, and the Court will rule whether the new formula and funding meets constitutional muster. Oral arguments are set for July 18, and both parties–the state and a coalition of school districts–offered written briefs last week.

In their brief, school attorneys Rupe and Robb ask the Court to reject the new funding and request that Justices offer “very specific guidance on what level of funding” is required to comply with the Kansas Constitution.

The Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the new school finance formula on July 18. Written briefs were filed last week.

According to Trabert, their entire argument is that lawmakers “didn’t fulfill the schools’ Christmas Wish List.” Specifically, the lawyers argue that legislators didn’t consider recommendations from expert bodies in drafting the new formula. Rupe and Robb cite the Kansas Association of School Board request for an additional $972 million in school funding.

Trabert calls that laughable.

“You see, the state board didn’t ‘reasonably calculate’ a thing; they picked their numbers out of thin air during a brief discussion at the July 2016 board meeting,” Trabert says.

He argues a miscalculation in the new school funding formula will add $161 million more than necessary to school coffers. However, in their brief attorneys for the state ask the Supreme Court to uphold the funding adopted by the legislature. They write that because the new funds are directed at students performing below grade level, the funding complies with the Court’s order.

Schools will open as planned, funded by the formula lawmakers adopted in June. Supreme Court Justices will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the new funding formula on July 18.

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