Eagle Forum
EF Twitter
Back to Feb. Ed Reporter

Education Reporter

School Funding Cases Pressure Kansas, Missouri Pols
Kansas Court Sets Deadline to Raise Spending; SC Trial Ends
Gov. Matt Blunt
Gov. Matt Blunt
In the continuing saga of court orders around the country forcing legislatures to spend more money on public schools, the Kansas supreme court in January gave the state legislature an April 12 deadline to "fulfill its constitutional duty" by appropriating more money for public education.

"It is clear increased funding will be required; however, increased funding may not in and of itself make the financing formula constitutionally suitable," the court stated in a unanimous opinion. The court based its decision on language in the Kansas constitution requiring the legislature to make "suitable provision" for financing schools.

The same week as the Kansas decision, Missouri Gov.-elect Matt Blunt convened a summit conference of legislators and superintendents to consider how to reform the school funding system. More than 250 Missouri school districts have sued the state, arguing it does not adequately cover the costs of education.

A plaintiff's attorney in the case contended that as much as $2 billion in new spending would be needed to stave off the court challenge. Blunt, however, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "There's no way we're going to have $900 million of new revenue for education this year." While he expressed openness to replacing property-tax financing with income-tax financing, he said he would not support any plan that results in a net increase in taxes for Missourians. (1-5-05)

Missouri speaker: Show me 
Rep. Rod Jetton, the incoming speaker of the Missouri House, expressed skepticism about the spending demands, asking rhetorically, "Does more money necessarily translate into a better education?"

Missouri last changed its school funding formula in 1993 following a lawsuit by dozens of districts. The formula gave poorer districts a greater portion of state aid but inequities remain in what districts spend.

See Education Reporter, Oct. 2004 and Jan. 2005 for a review of the school funding disputes occurring in about half the states. A more recent Education Week study concluded that 31 states are considering changes to their education financing, 16 face legal battles on school financing and 20 have settled lawsuits in the last five years. The same study found that the District of Columbia, New Jersey and New York spend the most per student, each topping $10,000. (New York Times, 1-6-05)

18-month SC trial 
South Carolina wound up an 18-month trial in December in an 11-year-old suit. Whatever the trial judge decides, the case is likely to be appealed to the state supreme court, which overturned the judge's initial dismissal of the case in 1999.

The South Carolina constitution contains no verbiage on the adequacy of educational funding, but the state supreme court ruled in 1999 that a "minimally adequate" education is constitutionally required. State lawyers argued at trial that low student achievement by poor, rural children cannot be overcome by additional funding for K-12 schools, which has already increased substantially in the years since the suit was filed.

"Why would we think that the next batch of more money will do what the first batch of more money could not do?" asked attorney Bobby Stepp in closing arguments. (Education Week, 1-5-05)

Google Ads are provided by Google and are not selected or endorsed by Eagle Forum
Eagle Forum 200 West 3rd St. • Alton, IL 62002 phone: 618-433-8990 eagle@eagleforum.org