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Kansas Lawmakers Move Forward After Funding Showdown

Kansas' supreme court late last month backed off its threat to shut off state funding after the legislature at the last minute figured a way to provide more than $38 million to its poorest districts.  But while that resolved the equity part of the Gannon V. Kansas case, the court is expected to rule later this year on the adequacy part of the lawsuit.  

Last week, the court announced that it would hear that case Sept. 21.  That means a decision could come down before this year's November elections, when a large portion of the state's lawmakers are up for reelection.  

Losing the adequacy case—in which four districts argue that the state doesn't provide all of the state's districts enough money to help students meet its own learning standards—could cost the state more than $500 million.  

Meanwhile, a bipartisan committee organized by the legislature recently began vetting changes to make to the state's current funding formula. 

Two years ago, the state instituted a block-grant formula that expires next spring. 

"We've systematically gone through each segment of the school finance formula and either left it as it was if we throught we could get enough votes for it or tweaked it if we throught we needed to do that to bring on some folks to vote for it," state Sen. Laura Kelly, a Republican, told the KCUR's podcast Statehouse Blend.   

A proposal earlier this year by House education chair Rep. Ron Highland, a Republican, would give the state more oversight over school district spending and turn more than half of the state's aid into a voucher program for parents. School districts would be given more aid based on their performance on state tests. But that proposal is not likely to get very far, Kelly said, because it would require raising the state income tax.  

The New York Times published an interesting story this weekend highlighting how some officials in Kansas have started referring to public schools as "government schools."  

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