School districts suing Kansas for additional funding say a new finance system approved by the Legislature significantly underfunds education, while the state argues the formula offers vast improvements.
Both sides in the Gannon lawsuit filed briefs late Friday offering a first look at the arguments they will use before the Kansas Supreme Court in July.
Whether the court accepts the new funding law — and the amount of spending — will determine whether lawmakers are back to arguing over spending for schools next year, or potentially sooner, if justices order immediate changes.
Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 19 in early June. The bill gives schools overall about $195 million more in the next budget year and about $290 million more in the year after that. The formula is designed to better target funding for at-risk students than current law does.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The Supreme Court cited underperformance by a quarter of Kansas students in their March ruling that found funding inadequate.
The bill funds all-day kindergarten. It also would expand to individuals a program that provides a tax credit to corporations that donate to tuition scholarships for private school students.
Attorneys for the plaintiff districts argued in the brief that about $893 million is needed over two years to adequately fund education. That figure was put forward by the Kansas State Board of Education.
“SB 19 funds Kansas public education at a level far short of every single indicator available as to what it actually costs to constitutionally fund an education,” the brief says.
The state, through the attorney general’s office, argues the opposite. The new formula constitutes good faith and substantial compliance with the court’s order, it says.
The Legislature included “substantial” new funding that will be targeted at at-risk students, it argues.
“SB 19 is a dramatic, positive step for Kansas, its students, and its schools. Constitutional compliance has been achieved, and the Court should dismiss this case,” the brief says.
The court is allowing the new funding law to go into effect while justices decide whether it is constitutional. The justices will hear oral arguments on the new law on July 18. A decision could come soon after.