TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Supreme Court Thursday ruled that Gov. Sam Brownback's plan to fund public schools through block grants is unconstitutional because it creates inequity between school districts.
Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools is one of the districts that claimed its students have been short-changed ever since block grants became law last year.
KCK schools are calling the ruling a victory for all Kansas children.
The court has given the legislature until June 30 to fix inequities in school funding. That's expected to require the state to spend $54-million more on public schools. Without a change, the court says Kansas schools will not be able to open in August.
At a time when state tax receipts are having trouble funding government operations, it's unclear where lawmakers will find millions more for schools.
"If we don’t have the same resources then we are going to be challenged to give our teachers the same thing they can get by going to neighboring school districts," said David Smith of the KCK school district. "That’s a huge difference. If our kids don’t have access to the best then their life chances are diminished."
Block grants essentially froze $4-billion in funding for Kansas schools for two years. But by not providing additional money to poor districts to compensate for inequities, those schools were forced to cut programs and staff going into this school year.
Across the county line in Shawnee Mission, the school district says it will advocate for a solution that provides greater local funding flexibility and is financially sustainable.
The Shawnee Mission School District issued the following statement:
Shawnee Mission School District leaders are reviewing the ruling released this morning by the Kansas Supreme Court in relation to the Gannon v. Kansas case. The district will reserve comment until a thorough understanding of the ruling has been determined. As officials evaluate implications regarding the opinion, we will continue to advocate for a funding solution that is financially sustainable, promotes greater local funding flexibility, and ensures educational excellence for all students in Kansas