Kansas court decision could spur changes in school funding

Jan 5, 2015

The Kansas Senate Chamber.
Credit Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Governor Sam Brownback and some legislators have been saying Kansas should rewrite the funding formula used to distribute state tax dollars to K-12 schools. A court ruled last week that the state is underfunding Kansas schools. As Kansas Public Radio’s Stephen Koranda reports the decision may add more energy to the call to rewrite the school finance formula.

In a previous ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court said the state’s finance system should be judged by determining if the spending levels achieve certain student outcomes.

University of Kansas constitutional law professor Richard E. Levy says if lawmakers decide to tackle the formula, that’s the angle they’ll probably need to take.

“The focus is on what kind of outcomes, what demonstrated student learning have you produced. The focus is on what you’re achieving, not what you’re putting into the process,” says Levy.

Levy says writing a new formula that ended up saving money but didn’t focus on outcomes would likely be rejected by the courts for not meeting their requirements. Lawmakers will kick off the 2015 legislative session later this month.