Education funding direction remains unclear

Discussions on education funding continue with lawmakers set to begin the 2014 session in less than two months and a major decision from the Kansas Supreme Court still pending on whether the state is adequately funding K-through-12 education.

This week, Gov. Sam Brownback met with certain lawmakers, members of the Kansas Association of School Boards and a handful of superintendents. The governor wants to avoid future lawsuits. Emporia Schools Superintendent Theresa Davidson hopes the meeting was a step towards the governor gaining more insight into the matter.

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Base aid per student has dropped around 13 percent since 2009. Gov. Brownback says overall spending has increased. Davidson says a lot of that increase has to do with retirement contributions. She says the current formula, which includes weighted funding for different student categories, is best for the Emporia district.

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The Supreme Court heard arguments early last month in the latest lawsuit. A Shawnee County District Court panel said the state was "unconstitutionally eroding" funds when it decided against increasing the base state aid per pupil. The state appealed the ruling, saying the Great Recession forced cuts to hit all aspects of state government, and said in testimony today lawmakers have some latitude in setting the budget when times get tough.

This case follows a Supreme Court order eight years ago that lawmakers add $440 million overall to public education.

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