Kansas Supreme Court: State Level of School Funding is Inadequate

As expected, the Kansas Supreme Court this morning ruled that Kansas' school funding formula is inadequate under the Kansas Constitution.

Past rulings forced lawmakers to increase aid to poor school districts and helped spur an effort in last year's election to oust four of the justices in yes-or-no votes on whether they stayed on the court for another six years.

The state has argued that school funding is a matter for the Legislature to decide as part of its authority to set the entire state budget and that courts should not try to second-guess the Legislature.

The Kansas City Star reports that the court has given the Kansas Legislature until the end of June to enact a school funding plan that meet's the state's constitutional requirement for suitable school funding.

The court heard arguments last September in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by four school districts that argue that the state's almost $4.1 billion a year in aid to its 286 school districts is not enough to provide a suitable education for every child. The case, titled Gannon v. Kansas, alleged the state's legislation was failing to properly finance the education of the 458,000 public school students in Kansas.

All indicators are that the Legislature will act quickly. The Legislature set CLASS and its block grants to expire on June 30, 2017, with the intention of installing a new financing system by that time.

The Plaintiff School Districts are hopeful for a quick resolution, but are also hopeful that the resolution actually resolves the problem. Failing to do so, the court will void the current system of funding.

In reaching this conclusion, the court determined that the panel properly exercised its jurisdiction over the question of CLASS's constitutional adequacy.

The Supreme Court later sent the case back to the panel after finding that it did not apply the correct standard in concluding the state violated the Constitution.

In that decision, the court reversed earlier decisions that said the adequacy of funding should be based on the actual cost of providing services.

It noted that 15,000 of the state's African American students, or half of all African American public school students in Kansas, are not proficient in reading and math, "subjects at the heart of an adequate education".

In its ruling, the court cited several deficiencies in Kansas public education: almost half of the state's African American students, more than one-third of the state's Hispanic students, and more than one-third of the state's students who receive free or reduced-price lunches are not proficient in reading and math.

Almost one-half of Kansas' African American students, and more than one-third of its Hispanic students, are not proficient in reading and math - subjects at the heart of an adequate education.

"In effect, it is merely a fund created by freezing school districts' funding for 2 school years at a prior year's level".

We've put out a call to local officials and interested parties for comment on the decision and will be posting them on the site this afternoon.

  • Larry Hoffman