The school districts that are suing the state of Kansas over school funding said today that the bill passed recently by the Kansas Legislature is unconstitutional and doesn’t meet the Kansas Supreme Court’s requirements for adequate and equitable funding.
The plaintiff school districts, which include the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools, filed a brief today, along with the defendant, the state of Kansas, in the Gannon case. The case is in the Kansas Supreme Court. The court has previously said it would reach a decision by June 30.
The state of Kansas argued that the new school finance law met the court’s requirements and asked for dismissal of the case. The Legislature’s latest bill pumped about $500 million in additional funds into the public schools over a five-year period, which averages about $100 million a year.
The plaintiff school districts, however, say that “the state ignored the findings of every school finance expert, including its own, in determining the cost of an adequate education.” The new school finance law fails the adequacy test, according to the plaintiffs. It also fails the equity requirements, by creating “unequal access to funding,” allowing “wealthier districts more educational opportunity,” according to the plaintiff’s attorney, Alan Rupe.
“This year alone, the state is underfunding education by $506 million according to KSBE’s (Kansas State Board of Education) estimates,” Rupe stated. “The state’s response to the court’s fifth order in Gannon regarding school finance continues a pattern of chronically underfunding Kansas schools and failing Kansas schoolchildren,” Rupe stated.
The school districts have requested that the Supreme Court at least enter a finding that the Legislature should appropriate enough money to meet KSBE’s request for additional resources for fiscal year 2019, according to Rupe’s statement.
“This would require that the state fund a base of $5,090 for FY19, costing an additional $506 million this year,” he stated. The $505 million is on top of the funding added by Senate Bill 423. “However, a long-term solution is necessary to ensure each and every Kansas student is provided the opportunity to receive an education that prepares them for college or vocational success.”
The base for this year under Senate Bill 423 is $4,165.
The plaintiffs also asked the court to phase in more increases in future “out-years” to reach the additional $1.78 to $2.06 billion that the state’s own cost study showed was needed.
Defendants, represented by the state attorney general’s office, stated in their brief that the school finance bills have cured the violations identified by the court. They did not agree with the plaintiffs on many points.
The state argued in its brief that the school finance law passed this year satisfies the adequacy requirement of the state’s Constitution. It further argued that while the Legislature decided not to implement some of its own Taylor study’s recommendations, the study still would support a conclusion that the school finance law satisfied the adequacy requirement.
“The study focused on the costs of satisfying the State Board of Education’s aspirational ‘moon shot,’ which exceeds the Rose standards,” the state argued in its brief.
Also, the state argued that the Legislature declined to do a one-time short term funding surge in favor of a predictable long-term funding stream. It also argued that the five-year phase-in was reasonable and responsible legislative judgment.
The state also argued that local option budget funds and other programs funding should be considered in determining whether the Legislature has adequately funded the schools.
If the court decides the Legislature has not fully satisfied the adequacy of funding requirement, the state asked that the court at least accept the first year of the plan and allow the Legislature to address any remaining issues in the 2019 legislative session.
Any court remedy that would result in the closing of schools would violate the Kansas Constitution, a Kansas law and federal law, the state argued.
The briefs filed today are online at http://www.kscourts.org/kansas-courts/supreme-court/Cases_of_interest/Cases/113267/default.asp.