Education: A Right and Obligation

Friday, March 8, 2013

This right is explicitly stated in the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” adopted in 1948. It is well proven that education is a powerful tool by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully as citizens. In Kansas, the constitutional responsibility for adequate funding of public education rests with our state government. Each year, elected policymakers debate about how this obligation should be fulfilled.

Just days before the 2013 legislative session opened, a district court panel ruled that our state is not meeting its obligations to suitably provide for public schools and called for legislators to provide additional funding. The philosophy of equalization in funding supported by the Gannon case and by previous court rulings has helped districts such as ours compete with districts having greater wealth and ability to contribute local funds. But the sense of relief was short-lived; the Gannon case was appealed by the state and just last week the Kansas Supreme Court stayed the ruling ordering the parties to mediation.

In his State of the State address, the governor promised that he would not reduce funding for public education. His position implies that, at minimum, school districts can plan for the same amount of funding as the current school year. Indeed, the total dollars in the proposed budget seems consistent with that message. However, many bills being considered in both the House and Senate this session could significantly change the way the money is distributed through weighting factors and virtually all of these would reduce funding for school districts like Emporia.

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