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Wichita School Officials Say School Finance Ruling 'Positive' For Kansas Students

Nadya Faulx
Board President Mike Rodee, left, board member Betty Arnold, and board member and state Sen. Lynn Rogers listen as USD 259 Superintendent Alicia Thompson gives a statement Monday.

Wichita Public Schools officials say the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on Monday, which finds that the state’s school funding formula is unconstitutional, is a “positive thing for Kansas kids.”

USD 259 Superintendent Alicia Thompson said during a press conference after the court's announcement that it will take some time to fully understand the impact of the 88-page ruling, which says the school finance plan passed by legislators earlier this year is neither adequate nor equitable.

"It will take some time to go through that carefully to understand fully what the court’s decision really means for us," Thompson said.

Lawmakers passed a school funding package this session for nearly $300 million over the next two years. The Wichita school district received an additional $20 million dollars in state aid for the 2017-18 school year. The current budget won’t be affected by the ruling.

Board member and state legislator Lynn Rogers was one of 17 senators to vote against Senate Bill 19, though it ultimately passed and was signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback.

"I'm not surprised by this ruling," Rogers said Monday. "[The justices] were pretty pointed, and they agree with many of the things that I said on the Senate floor, that this school finance formula was inadequate, the adequacy was not correct, and the equity was not correct, that we got them both wrong."

Legislators fixed the equity portion of the lawsuit during a special session in 2015, before Rogers was elected.

"But we actually made that formula worse with this legislation on the equity side, so we messed it up," he said.

Rogers said the Legislature might start work on fixing the funding formula before the new session starts in January.

“The ruling really says we need to have things done by April 30 so they can argue the case, and we usually don’t meet in April, so that means we’ve got 3 months to do it," he said. "And there’s a lot of work that we need to correct.”

He said lawmakers are hoping to avoid another special session to fix the formula.


Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx.

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Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.