Court: Kansas should increase school funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A three-judge panel has ruled in favor of parents and schools who say the state's formula for funding education is unconstitutional.

"I think it's very clear now, that the state has an obligation to fund schools appropriately.  It's not meeting that obligation, and now, we expect that the legislature is going to do its job and fund schools appropriately," said David Smith, with the Kansas City, Kan. district.

Parents and school districts had argued the state has failed to live up to its promises to increase elementary and secondary education funding as ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2006. They say schools have had to make cuts that have hurt student achievement.

"We've lost staff, we've lost training opportunities, we've lost lots of resources and those aren't the important things.  The important things are what we do for kids.  It was getting to the point where it was beginning to get difficult to educate kids well," Smith said.

Right now, districts receive $3,780 per pupil. The ruling would force the state to pay $4,492 per pupil.

The new amount would add an additional $400 million statewide.

The Kansas City, Kan., district would see about $14 million in additional funding.

Parents in that district, said no matter the cost, funding schools, and all the programs, is very important.

"It's more important that these schools be open. A lot of these programs keep kids involved in extracurricular activities in the school, instead of out doing nothing," Sean Hargrove said.

"Nowadays, especially in Kansas, and particularly in Wyandotte county, it's hard to find schools that carry arts and science or drama. That's something that should be offered to the kids, along with the academic side," Swancel Blakey said.

"I don't think that cutting money from schools at any time, is a good idea," Joe Daniels said.

Friday's 245-page ruling from Shawnee County District Court will likely trigger an appeal from the state, though it's unclear how quickly that case would be heard.

In the ruling, the judges barred lawmakers from further cuts to per-pupil spending. But the ruling also acknowledged the state would likely appeal its findings.

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