|Back to Feb. Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 229||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||FEBRUARY 2005|
|School Funding Cases Pressure Kansas, Missouri Pols|
|Kansas Court Sets Deadline to Raise Spending; SC Trial Ends|
"It is clear increased funding will be required; however, increased funding may not in and of itself make the financing formula constitutionally suitable," the court stated in a unanimous opinion. The court based its decision on language in the Kansas constitution requiring the legislature to make "suitable provision" for financing schools.
The same week as the Kansas decision, Missouri Gov.-elect Matt Blunt convened a summit conference of legislators and superintendents to consider how to reform the school funding system. More than 250 Missouri school districts have sued the state, arguing it does not adequately cover the costs of education.
A plaintiff's attorney in the case contended that as much as $2 billion in new spending would be needed to stave off the court challenge. Blunt, however, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "There's no way we're going to have $900 million of new revenue for education this year." While he expressed openness to replacing property-tax financing with income-tax financing, he said he would not support any plan that results in a net increase in taxes for Missourians. (1-5-05)
Missouri speaker: Show me
Missouri last changed its school funding formula in 1993 following a lawsuit by dozens of districts. The formula gave poorer districts a greater portion of state aid but inequities remain in what districts spend.
See Education Reporter, Oct. 2004 and Jan. 2005 for a review of the school funding disputes occurring in about half the states. A more recent Education Week study concluded that 31 states are considering changes to their education financing, 16 face legal battles on school financing and 20 have settled lawsuits in the last five years. The same study found that the District of Columbia, New Jersey and New York spend the most per student, each topping $10,000. (New York Times, 1-6-05)
18-month SC trial
The South Carolina constitution contains no verbiage on the adequacy of educational funding, but the state supreme court ruled in 1999 that a "minimally adequate" education is constitutionally required. State lawyers argued at trial that low student achievement by poor, rural children cannot be overcome by additional funding for K-12 schools, which has already increased substantially in the years since the suit was filed.
"Why would we think that the next batch of more money will do what the first batch of more money could not do?" asked attorney Bobby Stepp in closing arguments. (Education Week, 1-5-05)