Kansas schools need more funding

Kansas Supreme Court ruling offers a jumping-off point for discussions regarding public school funding

JagWire staff

For the third time, the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s inadequate funding towards public education is unconstitutional. The news immediately became a trending topic on social media and drew national attention from news outlets such as the New York Times and the Huffington Post. While it does not immediately solve funding problems, this ruling is a step in the right direction for Kansas schools who desperately need the money to support their students and faculty.

Since we as students, teachers and administrators often feel the repercussions of spending cuts, this ruling was a big deal to us. What some fail to realize, however, is that this decision was nothing new. For years, Kansas has been trying to develop a functioning plan that benefits both taxpayers and schools alike. Yet, time and time again, we see legislators approve formulas with little change from the previous plan.

We’re not saying it’s easy to pass a state funding formula that benefits all types of schools. In Kansas, you have 1A rural schools competing for funding with 6A schools, some of which are located in profitable business districts, which inherently provides them with more money. A perfect plan is certainly hard to come by. However, from the switch to block grant-style distribution in 2009 and the recent Senate proposal to cut $128 million from K-12 education, it seems apparent that public education funding continues to decline year after year.

Time and time again, we see legislators approve formulas with little change from the previous plan.”

Because of these cuts, we’ve actually lost over $7 million since 2009 in USD232 alone, according to superintendent Frank Harwood. While it takes time and resources to develop well-structured funding formulas, the legislature needs to take action before this legislative session ends and at least begin to finalize a plan. It’s difficult for schools to develop budgets for next year when they don’t know how much funding they will receive.

A big problem is we don’t have money to pull out of thin air. It’s all either been spent encouraging our economy or given back to taxpayers. Although it may not make people happy, creating more revenue through tax increases could be a hail mary for our schools. In February, the Kansas Senate proposed House Bill 2178, which called to “increase personal income taxes and eliminate a tax exemption for businesses,” according to the Topeka Capital Journal. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Brownback. The Kansas Department of Revenue says the bill would have created about $590 million next year, some of which could have benefitted our schools immensely.

Education is an investment, and it’s an investment in our future. For us, more funding could mean more teachers per department, better computers or more career and technical programs. But what the bottom line of this means is a better education. No matter how we get there, that is the end game.

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