Kansas Supreme Court Convinced Money Matters – Requires State to Increase Funding for Public Schools
I’ve written several posts on the supply side failure in Kansas, where Governor Sam Brownback slashed corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthiest Kansans and assured voters that this would create jobs and thereby create a revenue stream that would offset the revenue lost due to the tax cuts. Unsurprisingly to anyone who has studied Economics 101, there was no uptick in jobs and, thus, the State legislature was required to make deep budget cuts. Those cuts to the education funding formula had a dis-equalizing effect that resulted in lawsuits being filed by revenue starved districts that serve the poor and minority students in the state. These suits slowly wend their way through the courts and have consistently yielded the same result at the Supreme Court: the plaintiffs seeking more state funding prevail.
As reported in earlier posts, Governor Brownback’s initial response to the cases was defiance, going so far as to seek the removal of the members of the court or to change the way jurists were selected. Facing the need to enact a tax hike this year to restore funding to 2015-16 levels, the governor now has an even greater challenge: according to a report from NPR he needs to augment the 2015-16 funding levels in order to meet the latest court decision. And the bottom line essence of the court’s decision is captured in these paragraphs:
Citing data from the 2015-2016 school year, the court said that nearly half of the state’s African American students and more than a third of its Hispanic students are not proficient in reading and math. More than a third of students who receive free and reduced lunch are also not proficient in those essential subjects, the court said.
The court also said the plaintiffs had provided evidence establishing a link between funding levels and student performance.
The NPR report then detailed the target figure for the State legislature:
The justices noted that in Kansas, the “base state aid per pupil,” or BSAPP, had risen from $3,600 back in 1992 to $3,890 in 2002 — and gradually rose to $4,400 for fiscal year 2009. But during the recession, appropriations fell steadily, and by fiscal year 2012, the legislature had reduced BSAPP to $3,780, passing on costs of more than $511 million to local districts.
In every year from 2009 to 2014, the Kansas State Board of Education has asked the legislature to fund the BSAPP at $4,492.
Citing educational studies and other evidence, the court states today that “a BSAPP amount near $4,654” might satisfy the state’s constitutional requirement, if it adjusts its financial aid formula.
And here’s the problem for the legislature: the $38,000,000 it raised last year for “poor school districts” — which was enacted only because the Kansas Supreme Court rejected their previous funding levels as “inequitable and unconstitutional,”- is insufficient. So Mr. Brownback and the legislature will either have to restore even more of the taxes they cut OR face the closure of their public schools in July.
Keep your eye on Kansas— because other Governors have adopted the flawed notion that “trickle down” corporate tax cuts will provide an incentive for businesses to relocate to their states. What they have not realized is that the kinds of businesses who seek tax cuts instead of good schools and a sound infrastructure might not be the kinds of businesses you want to attract…. and businesses that want good schools for their employees might look elsewhere.