Saying time was of the essence, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a decision posted online June 3 that the state legislature has failed to satisfy a court mandate to adequately finance K-12 public schools. The court ordered lawmakers to double the increase in school aid approved for the 2005-06 school year by July 1.
The education budget for fiscal 2006, which became law on April 16 without Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ signature, raises K-12 state aid by about $142 million, to nearly $2 billion over the current fiscal year. Under the new court-ordered remedy, the amount of the increase would total $285 million.
That increase is one-third of the $853 million recommended by a consulting firm retained by the legislature in 2001 to determine the cost of educating students in Kansas.
Funding beyond the 2005-06 school year will be contingent upon the results of a cost study ordered by the legislature this year. The court said that if that study is not completed in time for lawmakers to act on it in the 2006 session, or is not considered adequate by the court or is not acted on, the remaining two-thirds—or $568 million—in added funding recommended in the 2001 cost study could be ordered by the court.
A summary provided by the court said that the Kansas state board of education’s suggestion that the 2005 legislation be accepted as an interim step was “initially attractive.” The court, however, concluded that “… we cannot continue to ask current Kansas students to be patient. The time for their education is now.”
The court also delayed provisions passed by the legislature this year that would have authorized districts to raise local property taxes for education above state caps, and would have allowed for weighted state aid to reflect variations in local cost of living and radical shifts in local enrollment.
The June 3 decision is the latest action in the case known as Montoy v. State of Kansas, which was filed in 1999. On Jan. 3, the high court declared that the state inadequately finances its public schools, and ordered the legislature to adopt “corrective legislation” by April 12.
The budget passed by the legislature this spring increases per-pupil base spending from $3,863 to $4,222 annually, a hike of nearly 11 percent, and funding for special education and bilingual programs.