On Friday, a three-judge panel at the Shawnee County District Court in Topeka, Kansas, ruled that Kansas must increase educational spending by about $400 million. The unanimous panel held that while reducing income taxes, it was illogical for the state to argue at the same time that it can’t pay the money necessary for education.
Kansas, which has a Republican majority in legislature, and has been cutting taxes on the argument that it would encourage a business friendly environment and provide growth to the economy, has recently suffered a series of losses in courts against public school districts, parents, and students who want more funding for education.
In 2006, through a settlement in a prior lawsuit, a funding plan had been created, but activist groups filed lawsuits again in 2010, when the state made a cut of almost $300 million in funding. The cuts increased further in 2011.
The court observed in its ruling that the arguments of the state about its tight finances and need to cut educational funding did not sit well with the intentional reduction in revenues by reducing state income tax.
Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, has been a strong advocate of the tax cuts.
The court said, “It seems completely illogical that the state can argue that a reduction in education funding was necessitated by the downturn in the economy and the state’s diminishing resources and at the same time cut taxes further.”
The court also observed in its 257-page decision, that while Kansas was against providing $300 million for education holding it could have “disastrous consequences to the Kansas economy,” the state income tax reduction would decrease state revenue by almost $1 billion by 2013.
The ruling can mean that to remove the cuts in educational funding, the state may have to pay $4,492 each for about 6 00,000 students. This is not extra money, but what was originally required under the previous funding scheme, before the budget cuts in education.