Court to Kansas: Spend More on Schools

Kindergarten students at Frank Rushton Elementary School in Kansas City, Kan.Photograph by John Hanna/AP Photo
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The Kansas Supreme Court today found the state’s funding for K-12 education unconstitutional, saying budget cuts unfairly affect students in poorer districts. The 110-page ruling (PDF) left open the broader, and perhaps more contentious, issue of whether the state provided the “suitable” funding for schools that the state constitution requires. States across the country slashed their school budgets during the Great Recession, and the rise of states run by Republican governors and legislators who favor tax cuts over spending has slowed the funding rebound as the economy has recovered. Almost a dozen other states now face lawsuits over equitable and adequate funding, so the Kansas ruling was closely watched among both student advocates and state legislators.

Kansas has faced similar challenges before, and in 2005 it was ordered by the court to provide more for its students. In response, the legislature agreed to budget $4,492 per student by 2010, a level the court deemed adequate, but when the economy tanked, legislators never fulfilled that promise. In 2010, Kansas spent $4,012 per student, and by 2012, as new tax cuts kicked in, the funding fell to $3,780 per pupil. The state also eliminated almost half a billion dollars in capital spending.

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Court to Kansas: Spend More on Schools