School finance experts urge education leaders to reject proposals to change formula, constitution

National and state education experts said Kansas should not change the state constitution on school finance nor re-open work on the K-12 funding formula. 

Two Republican legislative leaders — House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, both Johnson County Republicans — suggested legislators may re-examine the new school finance bill from earlier this year that phases in $522 million over five years. GOP leaders have also said they would push for a constitutional amendment that would remove the Kansas Supreme Court from school finance cases that focus on the adequacy of funding. 

The Kansas Supreme Court has accepted the structure of the new school funding law but has said an inflation adjustment is needed. The State Board of Education and the school district’s attorneys have said that will require $364 million in additional funding over four years. Some Republican legislators have balked at the additional funding while education advocates have urged the Legislature to provide the funding and resolve the school finance litigation. 

On Wednesday, Dr. Bruce Baker, a national school finance expert, said Kansas benefits from court justices with deep knowledge of school finance, a Legislative branch that has generally been responsive to the court’s rulings, three rigorous school finance studies over the past several decades, and a state constitution that gives the State Board of Education broad responsibilities.  

“Don’t change any of these conditions,” Baker said to attendees at the KASB School Finance Basics seminar.  

State Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, and a leading advocate on public school issues, said GOP leaders are putting pressure on lawmakers to approve the constitutional amendment elbowing Kansas Supreme Court out of school finance. Rooker, who did not win re-election, says such an amendment would harm schools. She urged those at the KASB conference to communicate with their legislators to let them know what school districts want.

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