The Supreme Court sent the matter of determining adequacy of funding back to the District Court. The decision fundamentally shifts focus from money inputs to outcomes. This has been a critical point of distinction for Republicans and the court's affirmation is significant. The Supreme Court's decision rejected the District Court's ruling that "suitability" of education under the state constitution is determined only by a dollar amount. Instead, the Supreme Court instructed the District Court to look toward outcomes to determine adequacy. The District Court is instructed to examine Kansas public education by measuring adequacy based on the Rose Standard, which is already contained in current Kansas statute.
The Rose Standard is based on a Kentucky court case from 1977, and it states: "An efficient system of education must have as its goal to provide each and every child with at least the seven following capacities:
- Sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization.
- Sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the student to make informed choices.
- Sufficient understanding of governmental processes to enable the student to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state, and nation.
- Sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her mental and physical wellness.
- Sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage.
- Sufficient training or preparation for advanced training in either academic or vocational fields so as to enable each child to choose and pursue life work intelligently.
- Sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states, in academics or in the job market."
The Supreme Court recognizes that the amount spent is not the sole determinant of adequacy of funding. To me this indicates the study known as Augenblick & Meyers is considered flawed. This is the study the original school finance lawsuit was based on.
The Supreme Court clarified that school finance includes not only State General Fund spending (BSAPP), but also ALL other funding sources. The decision specifically said ALL funding sources include the cost of teacher's retirement plan known as KPERS, capital outlay spending, local LOB funding, and even federal funding. It will be very productive to the legislature to have this finally settled when we address the Adequacy of Funding issue in the future. To demonstrate the significance of this clarification, please review the graph below.
The Plaintiffs in the case only wanted the BSAPP amount of $3,838 to be considered the only cost being spent on K-12 education. The State Supreme Court settled this long running conflict and ruled that all costs must be considered. When you add up all the costs directed by the State Supreme Court the per student spending is around $12,781 annually.
In the end, the Court spent significant time acknowledging that the cuts enacted under Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson in 2009 have resulted in inequalities within the funding formula. The two areas the ruling focused on are the equalization of funds raised through local property taxes (LOB) and the equalization of capital outlay state aid (the latter being used for building construction, school buses and other equipment). The Court ruled that these funds must be distributed equally from richer districts to poor districts in order to abide by the Kansas Constitution.
Now that the ruling is here we need to get to work to solve the Equity of Funding issues. The courts have given us until July 1, 2014 to accomplish this. With all of our committee work still going this is a short fuse so we have to work diligently. We all spent the weekend talking with our school Superintendents, Legislative Leadership, the Governor's office, and of course Legislative Research.