By Celia Llopis-Jepsen – Kansas News Service/KCUR
Kansas continues to underfund its schools, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Monday —a decision that could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars more over the next four years.
But because the Legislature agreed to significant hikes in education spending this spring, the justices gave lawmakers another year to comply.
The high court could have forced legislators back to Topeka in coming weeks to fix the problem or face school closures, something the state’s lawyers begged it not to do.
“The 2018 legislature’s efforts,” the justices wrote, “and the amount of money added to the financing system for the approaching school year should permit such an extension.”
The Legislature passed a five-year plan this spring to add more than a half billion dollars in annual school funding over the next half decade.
That, the state argued in court, brings Kansas in line with funding levels approved by the Kansas Supreme Court in a separate court case in the mid-2000s — adjusting for inflation.
The justices disagreed. Among the problems they found: Kansas left out multiple years’ worth of inflation from its tallies.
But the high court did drop the other major claim against Kansas — that the state is not only underfunding schools, but leaving the poorest districts with the least resources. This time the justices found the new school funding plan fair to poorer districts.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.