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New Supreme Court ruling, doesn’t bridge gap between legislators, Superintendents

Published on 30th July 2016 New Supreme Court ruling, doesn’t bridge gap between legislators, Superintendents

by James Jordan, Sumner Newscow — The Kansas State Legislature passed a budget this week that solved a projected shortfall. It added money for legal fees in the school funding lawsuit, but did not put in any additional funding for schools. That was perhaps an answer to the latest salvo in the school funding issue that has been going on in Kansas for several years.

Last week, the State Supreme Court ruled the block funding formula passed last year does not fund schools sufficiently, and that it harms poorer districts. The block funding grant is a two-year program that fixes funding for two years, meaning there is no adjustment if a district gets more or fewer students.

The court said the state needs to add funding by June 30 or schools could be shut down. The state’s adding money for legal fees instead could signal that it is preparing to fight the ruling.

While the ruling is the latest in years worth of events, some school officials feel not much is really changing.

Alan Jamison, superintendent at Caldwell, said “it kind of feels like we are back to where we were three years ago. It doesn’t seem to be any more court shuffling of the case it has come to an end.”

He said districts would still have to wait and see how the legislature reacts before schools can see what the impact will be.

Conservatives are continuing to support the formula and feel schools are being funded better than the high court does.

State Rep. Kyle Hoffman, (R-Clearwater) said he believes the block grant is constitutional because the state followed the constitution when putting it together.

“The legislature voted on it, the governor signed it, and it provides school districts the ability to give students a suitable education, through federal, state, and local funding all the while providing more flexibility to use those funds than they have had in years,” he said.

Caldwell was one of the smaller districts that actually benefited from the block grant program. The district had an increase in students before the grant started, so their funding level went up and will stay up for the two years. Jamison said the block grant would allow them to lower taxes a little.

However, districts who gained students later would have extra expenses and no money to pay the extra costs.

Hoffman believes the state program got money into the classroom to help students, and it did not help the bureaucracy.

“The lawsuits that have come have not been about the kids, because they haven’t ever been able to prove any child was harmed by a supposedly “inequitable” education. The lawsuits are about the teachers unions and the education establishment constantly pushing for more money, which I am convinced will never be enough. My priority is the kids, and giving them the opportunities they deserve, which is more than just about money,” Hoffman wrote in an email.