Education Funding

Kansas Supreme Court: State Level of School Funding is Inadequate

By Andrew Ujifusa — March 02, 2017 1 min read
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The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the level of state funding for public schools is inadequate and does not square with the state’s constitution, giving state lawmakers until the end of June to respond.

Gannon v. Kansas has been one of the most closely watched state school funding cases in recent years. The plaintiffs, several school districts in the state, alleged that the state’s K-12 funding is inadequate, which the state has denied in a long-running and complex legal battle. (It’s one of two elements in the legal battle over school funding in the Sunflower State—more on that below.)

Thursday’s decision could create serious difficulties for Kansas lawmakers, since they were already pondering how to dig the state out from a $900 million budget hole this year, the Wichita Eagle reported before the ruling was released.

“We conclude the state’s public education financing system, through its structure and implementation, is not reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed the minimum constitutional standards of adequacy,” the ruling states.

The ruling supported this conclusion by citing the nearly 50 percent of African-American students in Kansas who are not proficient in reading or math, and the one-third of students who receive free or reduced-price meals who are also not proficient in these subjects.

Separately, the court ruled in 2015 that the state’s funding system was inequitable. That issue was settled to the state supreme court’s satisfaction last year by shifting $38 million around within the education budget, but the separate legal question of overall funding adequacy remained.

Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, last year warned that there would be tax hikes if the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

Read the ruling from the court below:

“The Kansas Supreme Court has finally confirmed what anyone who has recently stepped inside a Kansas public school already knew,” said Alan Rupe, a lawyer representing some of the districts that originally sued. “Kansas public education is significantly underfunded. The hardest part now awaits. It is incumbent upon the Legislature to react to the ruling quickly and in a way that puts the funding levels into constitutional compliance.”

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