Kansas must increase state aid to local school districts after a Shawnee County District Court ruled last week that the current assistance level is unconstitutionally low.

State aid of $4,400 per student in 2009 fell to $3,780 in 2012 before rebounding slightly to $3,838 in fiscal 2013.

The 245-page ruling, which will be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, said lawmakers need to go back to the higher 2008 spending level as a starting point for the fiscal 2014 budget.

The suit was filed in 2010 by a coalition of school districts and parents.

Lawmakers contended the reduction in state funding was mandated by a drop in state revenues, but the three-judge district court panel disagreed. The judges said the spending cuts were an “unconstitutional erosion” by the Legislature.

The high court ruled in a 2006 school funding suit that per-student spending was too low. Lawmakers approved a funding level of $4,492 per student in response to the 2006 ruling, but never achieved it.

“Fundamentally, we believe that the best point at which to begin to effect a cure to the constitutional deficiencies we have found in the reductions in the (per-pupil aid) is to go back to the 2008 session when a constitutionally compliant legislature amended (the school finance law) to adjust (per pupil state aid) for fiscal 2010 and forward to $4,492,” the judges said.

John Robb, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the ruling should result in at least an additional $400 million a year in per-student aid from the state.

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