USD 410 is among a growing number of Kansas school districts to have joined the Schools for Fair Funding coalition, which is gearing up for a legal battle against state legislators because of cuts to education funding that could leave schools short on money for years to come.
Superintendent Steve Noble told the board Oct. 12 when it decided to join that the coalition intends to seek litigation against the state to require it to fund education “according to the law.” In January 2005, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had violated the law in its formula to determine funding for school districts. That decision required the Legislature to increase funding levels for Kansas schools.
More than half of the state’s budget goes to public schools, which have weathered two rounds of budget cuts since January. Districts say they are owed another $100 million this school year because of an increase in enrollment and an increase in low-income students. But the state may withhold that money because of another budget shortfall.
We understand the board’s position and join with those who feel strongly that public education needs to be fully funded. But that leaves legislators with one of two very bad options to balance its budget this coming year: (1) cut funds from other deserving programs, including those that assist people in dire need, (2) or raise taxes, which will further squeeze Kansas families and businesses already struggling in a tepid economy.
Our elected officials in our school districts and in the Legislature will need the wisdom of Solomon to make equitable budget decisions, but at the moment it appears the threat to the proverbial baby during this standoff is real and increasingly ominous. —DR