Kansas Gov. Brownback Signs Bill Answering State Supreme Court Ruling

By Daarel Burnette II — April 07, 2016 1 min read
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Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law Thursday legislators’ answer to a February state supreme court ruling that deemed the state’s funding formula inequitable. The court said in its ruling that if lawmakers didn’t come up with a sufficient answer by June 30, they would be forced to close the entire school system.

The law Brownback just signed redistributes education funding and increases state spending by $2 million for its poor districts, without taking money away from wealthier districts. But it falls far short of the court’s request to provide poor districts with $54 million more in aid. Many of the state’s Democrats argue that the proposal ultimately forces local taxpayers to pay for the gap in funding.

The new funding formula now heads to the state supreme court, which is expected to rule in the coming months on whether the proposal appropriately responds to its ruling.

Brownback said he signed the bill to “keep our schools open and ensure our students continue to have access to a quality education,” according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. “This bill is the result of a delicate legislative compromise - one that I respectfully endorse and that the Court should review with appropriate deference.”

The lawmakers’ ability to fully address the court’s ruling is hampered in several ways. The state passed its budget last month and a series of tax cuts made over the last three years have left the state’s coffers mostly empty. While the legislators are reluctant to raise taxes, even if they did so, it’ll take some time for the state to start collecting that revenue.

Because of these hurdles, it’s possible that the supreme court will deem the lawmakers’ answer as a temporary solution to a longterm problem, Randy Watson, the state’s education commissioner told me earlier this week.

The court has yet to rule on the adequacy part of the Gannon v Kansas lawsuit in which four districts argue that the state has shortchanged its entire school system by hundreds of millions of dollars.

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