National education and labor news

Kansas school funding again found unconstitutional

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state’s new school finance system is unconstitutional, sending the issue back to the state Legislature ahead of an election-year legislative session.

The court found that the state failed to meet the Kansas Constitution’s provision to adequately fund education. This decision marks the second time this year that the court knocked down a school funding plan as inadequate. The newly struck-down plan was the product of a strenuous effort by lawmakers to round up enough votes for a tax increase to override a threatened veto from Gov. Sam Brownback after the court dismissed a previous plan in March.

Though the ruling did not specify a dollar amount that would qualify as constitutional, it mandated a fairer distribution of state funding between poor districts and their wealthier counterparts.

A new funding law must be crafted by April 30 so there’s time for the justices to review it before money for the schools runs out.

Wealthy areas can generate large amounts of revenue from relatively minor increases in property tax rates due to high property valuations. Districts with lower property values are unable to raise a significant amount of money by the same means. Kansas has provided some funding to poorer districts to offset that advantage, but the court ruled the amount insufficient.

Deep tax cuts, enacted five years ago by the Republican governor, created severe fiscal problems for the state — a burden that fell heavily on Kansas’ public school system.

Kansas City Star, Oct. 2

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