Kansas Capitol Connection: A weekly summary of education-related developments before the Legislature

While the Legislature was on break this week, the Kansas Supreme Court delivered its much-anticipated school finance decision and deadline.

In a unanimous ruling, the court said the school finance system is inadequate under the Kansas Constitution and gave legislators until June 30 to fix it.

The court cited statistics that showed nearly one half of African-American students; more than one third of Hispanic students and more than one third of students receiving free or reduced lunch are not proficient in reading and math, which the court called “subjects at the heart of an adequate education.”

The court stated: “Accordingly, we conclude the state's public education financing system, through its structure and implementation, is not reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed the minimum constitutional standards of adequacy.”

Legislative leaders in the Republican-controlled House and Senate said legislators have been discussing school funding proposals and Gov. Sam Brownback said legislators should include school choice measures in any new finance formula. Attorneys representing the four Kansas school districts said the Legislature needs to increase school funding by $800 million per year, although the court did not set a specific figure.

The state already faces an estimated $1 billion revenue shortfall through June 2019. A tax increase to plug this deficit was approved by the Legislature but vetoed by Brownback.

When legislators return to session this week, they will be working on education budgets, taxes and other issues.

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