Kansas Education Funding Unconstitutional

The funding of the Kansas public school system is in violation of the state’s constitution according to the Kansas State Supreme Court.

The Court ruled on March 7, 2014, that the state’s public school system failed to meet the constitution’s standards in two critical areas: equity and adequacy, affirming an earlier decision in Gannon v. State of Kansas.

Similar to the uneven distribution of resources amongst school districts in Pennsylvania, the Kansas Supreme Court noted that “unreasonable, wealth-based disparities,” also exist within its public school system. Furthermore, the court cited that this discrepancy was the main cause of why public schools failed to meet the State Constitution’s adequacy requirement.

To address these failures, the Court gave the State legislature a July 1st deadline to amend school funding (at approximately $130 million) to meet the equity standards of state constitution.

In May, staff attorney Michael Churchill called attention to the damage that such funding inequalities have created in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when he testified on the adoption of the 2014-2015 School District of Philadelphia budget:

“Today the School District of Philadelphia is about to adopt a totally insufficient budget: instead of uplifting children and providing them new opportunities for advancement it provides them with little hope of enough adult support to gain the experiences and skills they need to become the productive and creative people they wish and need to be.”

In 2013, Philadelphia spent $3,100 less per student than the average public school district: a difference of $17,593 versus $14,400 per student. In response to this discrepancy, Mr. Churchill called for lawmakers to give the School District of Philadelphia the money it asked for: $225 million in new dollars ($150 from the state and $75 from the city) plus the $120 million it asked for from the city last year.

The ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court in March to stand up for its students and the July 1 deadline it gave to the legislature funding provides an example of a proactive effort to stop the state public school system from denying its students a fair chance . As the court opinion stated, “The people of Kansas wanted to ensure that the education of school children in their state is not entirely dependent upon political influence or the voters’ constant vigilance.”

While this is a great step forward for education in the state of Kansas, parents must continue their struggle to secure education equity in Pennsylvania. Mr. Churchill said, “I urge every parent to demand that Harrisburg provide the funding needed so that our schools can be fully staffed and Philadelphia students have an opportunity to succeed equal to that of other students.”

Click here to read Michael’s Churchill’s full testimony.

Find out more about education equity issues in PA.