During this current election, much comment has centered around the allegedly “broken” school finance formula and the need to “fix” it.

I am puzzled at this rhetoric because there is a singular fact that is being overlooked in the conversation — the current school funding formula in Kansas has never been fully funded.


During this current election, much comment has centered around the allegedly “broken” school finance formula and the need to “fix” it.
I am puzzled at this rhetoric because there is a singular fact that is being overlooked in the conversation — the current school funding formula in Kansas has never been fully funded.
How is it possible to ascertain whether the formula works or not when its full funding impact upon school districts has not been determined?
One positive result of the 2005 Kansas Supreme Court decision was the ability of school districts for the first time to be able to plan for a multi-year budget cycle, due to the fact that funding for the three-year cycle was a known quantity.
While it was a huge step in the right direction, it should be noted that the amount of funding legislated fell short of the legislature’s own studies and recommendations.
There is no question school funding is complex. No two districts in our state have the same demographics, same student needs, same facility needs, etc.
Naturally, it would stand to reason it would be disequalizing to treat all districts the same.
While it may be possible to streamline the formula and make it easier to understand, oversimplifying it will not meet the diverse needs of Kansas students.
Until we know the results of full implementation of the funding formula, how can we suggest the formula does not work?
The most recent litigation move by Schools For Fair Funding hinges on the fact that the formula has not been fully funded.
Currently, according to legislation passed by the Kansas State Legislature, school districts should be receiving $4,492 per student; in actuality, school districts are receiving $4,012 per student, which is $380 less per student than the legislature itself approved.
Additionally, with the complexities of the formula, less funding in the base area translates to less funding in other areas of the formula, which are computed as a percentage of the base, increasing the overall shortage to schools.
Compounding the problem is the recurring issue of special education costs.
Originally, Congress indicated it would fund 100 percent of the actual costs of special education; to date, this figure has never been approached, currently hovering around 82 percent.
As a result, most school districts have been forced to allocate increasing amounts of general fund monies to support this critical educational area.
Finally, perhaps a realistic first step would be to figure out what would happen if the formula for school funding in Kansas were to be fully funded; given the current economic climate in both our state and in the country, a realistic phase plan over the next three to five years might put us again on the right path and enable us not only to better meet the needs of all of our students, but to better prepare our students in Newton, in Kansas and in the United States to successfully participate in the global economy in which we all live.

    Dr. John R. Morton is superintendent of Newton USD 373 public schools.