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K-State Today

October 10, 2016

K-State education finance expert releases Kansas school funding brief

Submitted by Patrice Scott

David. C. Thompson

A national expert on faculty in the College of Education authored a policy brief outlining the structural elements of state aid formula construction that are aimed at meeting the state of Kansas' constitutional obligation to public education.

David C. Thompson, professor and chair of the department of educational leadership, Elvon G. Skeen endowed chair and National Education Finance Academy distinguished research fellow, penned "A Policy Brief on Kansas School Finance." Thompson is routinely sought after as a policy analyst by media outlets and has provided expert service to both plaintiffs and defendants in school finance disputes across the nation.

"The state of Kansas specifically invited ideas as it is faced with rewriting its school aid formula, and I am pleased that this policy brief may serve to contribute to a critical statewide conversation as nothing is more important to Kansas' future than how the state pays for K-12 education," Thompson said. "Among the key recommendations was a strong state/local partnership with assurance of a per-pupil expenditure floor from which to build in need-driven and all-inclusive instructional/support/operational costs. Of equal and paramount importance was that the state accept the responsibility to shoulder the lion's share of costs and to ensure that school funding is highly equalized in every school district. An important consideration was that a new state formula should not result in loss of baseline funding to any school district."

The brief addresses the key elements of fiscal equity, adequacy, efficiency, stability and accountability. Thompson stressed three points:

  1. The importance of a broad revenue base with great preference for progressive tax systems that seek the income tax as the first stream, statewide property tax as the second stream, highly equalized local property tax as the third stream, and sales tax as the least preferred stream;
  2. The need for an expenditure floor, an expenditure cap and vertical educational need adjustments that take all costs into consideration; and
  3. The need for determining the actual cost of equitable and adequate school funding through comprehensive true cost analyses rather than being driven first by historic expenditure patterns.

"School funding is one of the most important and critical issues facing Kansas and every state," Thompson said. "Kansas school leaders know best what is needed to preserve, sustain and grow the successes of Kansas schools."

Thompson is the author of several books on school finance and was engaged in legislative debates leading to enactment of the state's previously longstanding school funding formula. For more information about his views on Kansas school finance, please watch his interview on "EduCATion Today."

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