Supreme Court Hears School Funding Arguments
Associated Press - September 21, 2016 6:57 pm
The Kansas Supreme Court hosted a hearing Wednesday on the ongoing school funding lawsuit.
Here are updates from the hearing:
Kansas Supreme Court justices have briefly considered whether the state could pay for a suitable education for every child by shifting funds out of programs for gifted students.
The court heard arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by four school districts. They argue that the state’s nearly $4.1 billion a year in aid to its 286 school districts is not enough to provide a suitable education for every child.
Justice Dan Biles suggested during the arguments that the court might have to target its order to helping underachieving students.
State Solicitor General Stephen McAllister said school districts might be able to help underachieving students by taking money out of Advanced Placement courses. But he said he wouldn’t want that to happen and educators rejected the idea.
A Kansas Supreme Court justice is suggesting that an order from the court on education funding might have to be targeted to help underachieving students in the state’s public schools.
Justice Dan Biles raised the issue Wednesday during arguments before the court in a lawsuit filed by four school districts in 2010. The districts argue that the state’s nearly $4.1 billion a year in aid to its 286 school districts is not adequate.
Biles questioned districts’ attorney Alan Rupe about his argument that the state needs to boost its annual spending by $800 million. Rupe said a third to half of the state’s public school students are struggling.
But Biles said the state constitution appears to require the state to target struggling students because others already receive an adequate education.
An attorney for four Kansas school districts has told the state Supreme Court that too many students are being left behind in their educations because the state isn’t spending enough money on its public schools.
Attorney Alan Rupe argued Wednesday before the justices that legislators have failed to meet their duty under the state constitution to provide a suitable education to every child. The state’s annual aid to its 286 districts is nearly $4.1 billion, but Rupe suggested that falls about $800 million a year short of being adequate.
Rupe said that students’ test scores on standardized English and math scores show that between a third and half of them are struggling.
The state argues that its education system compares well with those in other states and that funding is adequate.
Kansas Supreme Court justices are expressing skepticism with the state’s arguments that its current education funding is adequate as they consider a lawsuit filed by four local school districts.
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and four other justices on the seven-member court on Wednesday peppered state Solicitor General Stephen McAllister with questions after he suggested that the high court should defer to the Legislature.
The state argued that its annual aid of nearly $4.1 billion a year to its 286 districts is sufficient for legislators to meet their constitutional duty to provide a suitable education for every child.
Several justices pointed to data from state standardized tests suggesting many children aren’t on track to be ready for college and they challenged McAllister when he suggested spending isn’t necessarily crucial to student performance.
The Kansas solicitor general has opened his arguments on an education funding case before the Kansas Supreme Court by telling the justices that the Legislature is entitled to substantial deference in its decisions about how much to spend on public schools.
Solicitor General Stephen McAllister appeared Wednesday before the court in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by four school districts. The state is trying to persuade the court that the state’s annual aid of nearly $4.1 billion a year to its 286 districts is sufficient.
The Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas districts argue that legislators are hundreds of millions of dollars short each year in fulfilling their constitutional duty to give every child a suitable education.
A lower-court panel sided with the districts. The state appealed.
Attorneys for cash-strapped Kansas are trying to persuade the state Supreme Court not to order hundreds of millions of dollars in additional aid each year for schools.
But lawyers for four poorer local school districts, who will present arguments before the court Wednesday, say they are confident the judges will side with them.
The Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, districts sued in 2010. They contend legislators aren’t providing enough aid to give every child a suitable education, as required by the constitution.
The six-year legal dispute has brought the court into repeated conflict with GOP conservatives who control the rest of state government.
The justices are considering whether the state’s nearly $4.1 billion in annual aid to school districts is sufficient or up to $1.4 billion short.