Kansas Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Kansas Kids 

March 2, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: David A. Smith, Chief of Communications and Governmental Regulations (913) 279-2242

Kansas Supreme Court has once again ruled in favor of Kansas school children. In a ruling published today in the Gannon vs. State of Kansas school funding case, the court found that the state’s public education system is not reasonably calculated to ensure that all Kansas public school students meet or exceed minimum constitutional standards of adequacy, and is therefore unconstitutional.

Here are some of the key points in the decision: 

 

  • The Supreme Court has declared that the school finance system in Kansas is unconstitutional with respect to adequacy 
  • It stated that the current system is not reasonably calculated to get all students to constitutionally adequate minimum levels of achievement 
  • School funding must be tied to actual costs of getting students to adequacy 
  • The Court has given the legislature until June 30, 2017 to create a constitutionally adequate school finance system, or schools will be unable to open 
  • The Court has retained jurisdiction over the case 

 

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has once again reinforced the constitutional requirement for adequacy in school funding across the state,” said Dr. Cynthia Lane, superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools (KCKPS). “This ruling is a victory for school children throughout the state of Kansas. Our legislature is now challenged to implement sound and responsible tax policies which will allow them to meet the mandates of this court decision.” 

KCKPS was part of a group of school districts which went to court after the Kansas Legislature, in March of 2015, passed a block grant bill which cut an additional $50 million in funding for schools across Kansas, and froze funding levels for schools for the next two budget years. These reductions were on top of the cuts that school districts across the state have seen for the past seven years. The Shawnee District Court ruled SB 7 unconstitutional in June, 2015, and the state appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court issued a final ruling on the equity portion of the lawsuit in May, 2016. 

District officials are still evaluating the impact of today’s decision, and will need to wait to see how the legislature will implement the court’s order. Nevertheless, the decision is good news for the 22,500 children in KCKPS.

History of School Finance Litigation 

KCKPS was a lead plaintiff in the original lawsuit filed in 2010 in Shawnee County District Court, which argued that the legislature was providing constitutionally inadequate levels of funding for schools in Kansas. A three-judge trial court ruled in January 2013 for the plaintiffs, finding that the cuts reduced per-pupil expenditures far below a level “suitable” to educate all children under Kansas’ standards. 

To remedy the funding shortfall, the judges ordered that per-pupil expenditures be increased to $4,492 from $3,838, the level previously established as suitable. Rather than comply, the state appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled funding levels unconstitutional. In 2015, the legislature passed and the Governor signed a block grant bill, which froze funding levels for two years, and eliminated equalization for capitol outlay. It was this change that was appealed up to the Supreme Court, which divided the case into two parts, equity and adequacy. The court issued a final ruling on the equity portion of the case in May, 2016, and the legislature responded to the court’s ruling during a special legislative session in June, 2016. Today’s ruling covers the adequacy portion of the case. 

This is not the first time the state has been involved in litigation for providing inadequate funding to schools. In 1999, school districts filed suit in the District Court of Shawnee County, Kansas, alleging the financing system established by the state Legislature did not meet the Kansas Constitution's requirement to “make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” The court ruled in favor of the schools in that case, which also went to the Supreme Court. In 2005, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling. 

The complete Gannon decision can be viewed online at http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and- Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2017/20170302/113267.pdf.

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Melissa Fears • Communications Office
2010 N. 59th Street • Kansas City, KS 66104 • 913-279-2242