Hensley: Kansas Supreme Court validates what we knew all along

By Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley

In the ruling handed down by the Kansas Supreme Court that determined the current level of funding for schools is constitutionally inadequate, the justices provided important insight into what is needed in the next school funding formula. Much of their ruling validates what we have known all along.

The Court noted a widening achievement gap among students who are African-American, Hispanic, English language learner, disabled, and free and reduced lunch students. They concluded that nearly one in four students were not proficient in reading and math, subjects at the heart of an adequate education.

Additionally, their analysis determined the current system of funding fails to accommodate changing conditions such as enrollment. They argued that schools have to do more with much less, which impedes student outcomes.

Based on the Court’s analysis, there is a direct link between funding and student performance. It confirms the need for a funding formula that recognizes all students are not created equally. The new formula must provide more funding to help those students with additional needs.

Finally, the Court recognized the importance of KPERS employer contributions for attracting and retaining quality teachers. They argued quality teachers are necessary for achieving desired student outcomes.

The Court did not have a “magic number” for what would be considered constitutionally adequate. Instead, they are leaving it up to the Kansas Legislature to consider all funding sources and implement a solution by June 30.

There is a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. While the House appointed a special committee to analyze a new funding formula at the start of session, the Senate has just decided to do the same. The Senate Committee is scheduled to hold its first meeting this week.

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