If districts suing the state get their way, the Kansas Legislature could be back in Topeka within weeks to add another half a billion dollars to school budgets in time for the coming academic year.
The districts hope the Kansas Supreme Court will also tell the state to phase in hundreds of millions beyond that in the years to come.
Last winter the Legislature commissioned a study suggesting Kansas could need to add as much as $1.8 to $2.1 billion to close achievement gaps, graduate 95 percent of students from high school and ensure most are prepared for college or careers after that.
During oral arguments in the Gannon v. Kansas case Tuesday, a lawyer for the school districts returned repeatedly to those findings. Although no state is approaching a 95% graduation rate.
The state argued a five-year plan lawmakers passed this spring to ratchet up school spending over the next half decade — ultimately adding more than half a billion dollars in annual state aid to schools — is enough to provide children the public education guaranteed in the state constitution.
Even if the court concludes otherwise, solicitor general Toby Crouse said, it shouldn’t force lawmakers to fix the situation before they return to Topeka for the 2019 legislative session.
The school districts want the matter resolved by June 30 and the court has indicated it will rule by then.
If the court orders more spending this summer and the Legislature doesn’t comply, the justices could effectively shut schools by striking down current funding as unconstitutional and stopping disbursements of state aid.