According to The Topeka Capital-Journal, a Shawnee County District Court three-judge panel has ruled that the state legislature is failing to meet its K-12 school funding obligations under the state constitution. In a 251-page decision in Gannon vs. State of Kansas, the panel said the previously-set $4,492 per-pupil base state aid funding floor established by the Kansas Supreme Court may not be lowered.
Following the Kansas Supreme Court’s 2006 decision, the state topped out at $4,400 per pupil in 2009, but recession-driven cuts that followed have since driven the base state aid below that mark. The legislature added $40 million in funding last year to bring the current per-pupil rate to $3,838.
The district court panel stated: “The State of Kansas is hereby enjoined from performing the unconstitutional act of enacting any appropriation, or directing, modifying or canceling any transfer, or using any accounting mechanism or other practice that would will, or may in due course, affect, effect or fund less than the base student aid per pupil of $4,492.” Dale Dennis, Deputy Commissioner of the Kansas Department of Education’s Fiscal and Administrative Services Division, said it would take an additional $442 million to bring the State in line with the court’s decision.
The panel’s decision follows the Supreme Court’s ruling in Montoy vs. State of Kansas that established the $4,492 funding floor. Since the Montoy decision, conservatives in the state legislature have repeatedly questioned the reach of the courts and whether they should have authority to order specific appropriations or whether that is solely the domain of the legislature under the state constitution.
Now, legislators will face the challenge of having a court order stating they must dramatically increase K-12 education funding, while the State is already projected to run deficits in excess of $250 million due to income tax cuts signed last year. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is representing the State, announced he would be appealing the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court.
Source: The Topeka Capital-Journal, 1/11/13, By Andy Marso
[Editor's Note: In June 2012, Legal Clips summarized an Associated Press (AP) article on hutchnews.com, which reported on the school funding suit. According to the AP, Attorney Alan Rupe said more than $500 million in education cuts had left Kansas public schools so underfunded that the State no longer met its obligations to students and public school districts under the state constitution. Rupe, representing 32 students and 54 school districts in the school funding suit filed in 2010, charged that the State has reneged on its promises to adequately fund public education.]