With Kansas Justices Retained, Funding Case Now on Docket

By Daarel Burnette II — November 15, 2016 1 min read
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After Kansas’ Supreme Court justices earlier this year threatened to shut down the state’s public schools unless its legislature provided millions more to its poorest school districts, opponents retaliated by attempting to kick those justices off the bench, using that state’s recall process in the Nov. 8 election.

Those efforts failed, and now the justices will soon hear the second half of that case on whether the state’s $4 billion is enough to provide all of its students with an “adequate” education. If the state lost the case, the legislature will have to come up with potentially $800 million more a year for its public schools, a feat that Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, said will inevitably lead to increased state taxes.

The case, Gannon v. State, started in 2010 when four of the state’s poorest districts argued in court that the legislature was violating the state’s constitution by not providing enough funding for districts to provide an adequate and equitable education to its students.

Since then, the court has over and over again ruled that the state’s funding formula violates the state’s constitution, but the heavily conservative legislature was slow to act. Between 2011 and 2012, Brownback slashed income taxes, putting an even larger dent in the school districts’ budget.

In response to the rulings, Brownback and the state’s legislators have argued that the court is stepping outside its realm of responsibilities by dictating how the state should spend its money. The justices are appointed, but can be recalled under a retention clause in the state’s constitution. A group called Kansans for Justice led the $1 million efforts to recall the justices based on several controversial rulings in recent years, including its decisions regarding school funding.

The second part of Gannon v. State is expected to be heard before the end of this year.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.