This inspiring account of bipartisan political success delivers an expert breakdown of how and why Kansas—a politically conservative state—was able to craft a stable, balanced, and equitable system of funding for its public schools. Beyond a chronicle of one state’s achievements, School Finance and Education Equity provides invaluable policy guidance and lays out a blueprint that other states can use to strengthen their own public education systems.
Readers are given an insider’s tour of the Kansas story by Bruce D. Baker, an academic researcher and expert witness in school finance litigation. With more than two decades of involvement with the state, Baker combines historical background, legal analysis, and political and economic contextual data—along with a gleaming wit—to present a thorough, enlightening narrative of Kansas’s K–12 funding journey.
As Baker points out, other states can find much to learn here. He shows that, when it comes to school finance, Kansas serves as an exemplar in aligning resources to meet the promises of its constitution. State leaders rejected the pervasive notion that money doesn’t matter in education, and they gathered the data to prove that it does. Baker emphasizes that this kind of slow and steady success hinges on the ability of stakeholders to remain involved over time. Continuity is vitally important.
Baker’s account highlights how persistence can overcome opposition, continuity can aid reform, and incremental gains can lead to big change. In an era of national ideological polarization and political and economic volatility, the lessons from Kansas are especially illuminating.
Bruce D. Baker is a professor in the Department of Educational Theory, Policy and Administration at Rutgers Graduate School of Education in New Brunswick, NJ.
He previously served on the faculty at the University of Kansas from 1997 through 2008. In addition to publishing numerous articles, chapters, and a textbook on school finance, he has testified on school funding inequities and inadequacies in state and federal courts in Kansas, Arizona, Missouri, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York. He has also worked with state legislatures and boards of education in Kansas, Texas, Missouri, and Maryland, and most recently in Vermont and New Hampshire to inform and reform various aspects of state school finance systems. He blogs at Schoolfinance101.wordpress.com and can be found on twitter @schlfinance101.