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Kansas State Capitol, Topeka

Kansas study says state needs billions more in school funding

Report, commissioned by legislators, says Kansas needs $1.7 billion and $2.2 billion in additional funding by 2022 to meet academic performance goals.

A school finance report for Kansas has concluded that billions of additional dollars are needed in the next five years to achieve student success. 

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the study, which was commissioned by Republican legislative leaders, recommends between a spending increase of between $1.7 billion and $2 billion by 2022.

If either of the two recommendations in the report is adopted, annual state spending on schools would increase from $4.652 billion for the current school year to $6.438 billion or $6.719 billion.

The lower dollar figure would enable the state to meet former federal performance goals of having 90 percent of students proficient in math and reading. The The higher dollar figure is needed to reach updated state standards that include a 95 percent graduation rate.

The Kansas City Star reports that the recommended dollar amounts shocked lawmakers and others who had expected the report would call for a smaller amount on school spending. Instead, the study says schools need much more to meet student achievement targets. 

[Read the entire 164-page report here]

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, says the recommendations would require another tax increase and prevent the state from addressing needs in health care, social services, transportation or higher education.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that last year’s $300 million increase in state aid, paid for with an income tax hike, wasn’t enough to meet constitutional requirements for adequate school funding.

Republican leaders selected Lori Taylor, a Texas A&M University professor, and Jason Willis, who works with the nonprofit WestEd consulting firm, to conduct the $285,000 study.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, says the report highlighted three key points: Money matters, the state has significantly underfunded schools for several years and it will be expensive to fix.

“If you want better outcomes, you have to spend the money for the better outcomes,” Ward says. “That’s clear. This is the third report in a row over the past 15 years that said the same thing.”

The report is expected to set lawmakers scrambling to meet the Supreme Court’s April 30 deadline to respond to its ruling last fall that found funding inadequate.

How to pay for a large increase is an open question. Kansas revenues have been up amid a strong economy and after lawmakers raised income taxes last year. But a $2 billion increase, even phased in over several years, would likely outpace rising revenue.


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