Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is Pa headed for this?

The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday gave the state until June 30 to enact an “equitable” school funding formula or, it said, the state’s public schools won’t open for the 2016-2017 school year.

In its ruling, the court said that if a formula isn’t in place by then, the court will decide that “no constitutionally valid school finance system exists.” 

“Without a constitutionally equitable school finance system, the schools in Kansas will be unable to operate beyond June 30,” the Supreme Court said.

“Accordingly, the Legislature’s chosen path during the 2016 session will ultimately determine whether Kansas students will be treated fairly and the schoolhouse doors will be open to them in August for the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year,” the ruling stated.

The ruling affirms a Court of Appeals decision that the state had failed to correct constitutional inequities among school districts in the state’s school funding system. The three-judge appeals panel said the state’s block grant system had shorted poor school districts by $54 million.

The Legislature switched to a block grant system last year to replace a per-pupil funding formula until it could devise a new formula. But the court said block grants left schools underfunded.

Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement reacting to the ruling: “Kansas has among the best schools in the nation, and an activist Kansas Supreme Court is threatening to shut them down. We will review this decision closely and work with the Legislature to ensure the continued success of our great Kansas schools.”

But Alan Rupe, an attorney for the school districts that challenged the block grant system, including Kansas City, Kan., public schools, was pleased with the decision.

“It’s a win for every kid in Kansas that attends public schools, particularly kids who are disadvantaged and in high poverty areas,” Rupe said.

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