Acting barely a week before a court-imposed deadline, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed into law last Saturday an education bill that will add $90 million per year over the next four years to school funding in Kansas. The bill comes a year after lawmakers had approved a $525 million increase for schools that is being phased in over five years. In its decision last year, the Supreme Court said lawmakers needed to add an additional $90 million a year to adjust for inflation.
After intense negotiations between the Democratic governor and the Republican legislature, the House finally agreed to accept the $90 million per year increase the governor had proposed, but added several educational items to the package. The final bill requires districts to produce academic performance reports on each of its schools. It also provides for an audit of district cash reserves (some Republicans say school districts save too much of their funding).
John Robb, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case, predicted that the Kansas Supreme Court will reject the plan, because it doesn’t provide enough new money for public education after the 2019-20 school year. The bill adds spending for schools but still falls short of fully offsetting drastic cuts made during the last decade. In the 2019-2020 school year, for example, base state aid per pupil would be just $36 higher than base state per-pupil spending in 2008-2009.
The Attorney General must present a brief explaining the plan to the state supreme court by April 15, oral arguments will take place in May and the Court will rule by June 30 on whether it is constitutional.