KANSAS CITY, Mo. —School board leaders in Kansas said Tuesday that they've started studying how the state doles out education money amid growing talk of changing the formula for distributing billions of dollars to public schools.
The Kansas Association of School Boards said in a statement that it appointed a committee made up of board members and superintendents to look at education funding. The funding consumes more than 50 percent of the state budget, which totals $13.7 billion this fiscal year. The group held its first meeting last week.
The discussions are taking place against the backdrop of an expected lawsuit against Kansas officials by a coalition of more than 70 school districts over funding issues. The coalition, Schools for Fair Funding, said in June it would file the lawsuit in October.
The Republican nominee for governor, state Sen. Sam Brownback, also has suggested that the finance formula be rewritten to reflect current education needs and to avert further legal challenges.
The last significant school finance formula revision was in the early 1990s. Faced with litigation from midsize school districts, legislators scrapped the formula that put the funding burden on local districts and shifted it to the state.
But in 2006, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the system was out of whack and needed to be fixed. Legislators responded by increasing school funding by $1 billion over four years.
Since then, a significant decline in state revenue caused by the recession forced the state to cut back on those increases, fueling the talk of a new lawsuit.
Mark Tallman, lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, noted that legislative leaders and the Kansas State Board of Education have created committees that are studying school finance.
"I think the feeling of a lot of our members was, 'Things are likely to happen. We would like to try to be in perhaps more of a leadership position rather than just reacting,' " Tallman said.
Tallman said the association of school boards committee examining school finance includes a diverse group of officials serving different sizes of districts in different parts of the state. He acknowledged that reaching a consensus would be challenging.