A lawyer for the school districts in the Gannon school finance case views today’s Kansas Supreme Court ruling as a positive one.
Alan L. Rupe, a Wichita attorney, said the court’s decision is in agreement with the districts’ argument that school funding was not adequate. He said the court recognized that the Legislature made quite an effort to fix the problem, and everyone appreciates that, but it’s not there yet.
The school districts that sued the state over school finance included the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools. Rupe argued the case for the school districts, with Jessica L. Skladzien and John S. Robb with him for the appeal.
The state will get an extension of a year to fix the adequacy portion of the school finance legislation under today’s ruling. The new deadline is April 15, 2019.
The court gave the state specific guidance on what it needs to do by April of next year to achieve compliance, Rupe said.
Last Oct. 2, the court found that the current school funding was unconstitutional as it did not meet requirements for adequate funding. It gave the state until this spring to fix the problem.
The April 2019 deadline means the state Legislature does not have to call a special session, and it also means the local school districts may plan their budgets this summer without waiting for new financial information. They will be using the amount in the school finance legislation passed this past session, he said.
Rupe said the Legislature came up with $530 million this year, while the court indicated that the number needs to be adjusted for inflation. Anywhere from $200 million to $400 million more will be needed, he said.
While the state needs to provide more funds for “adequacy,” it has met the equity requirements, according to the court ruling today.
“We have confidence the Legislature can again meet its constitutional duty,” the court wrote in its decision today.
The court repeated its June 3, 2005, statement from the earlier Montoy III school finance case: “Time is running out for the school districts to prepare their budgets, staff their classrooms and offices, and begin the … school year. School districts need to know what funding will be available as soon as possible.”
It is the court’s sixth opinion in the Gannon case. The lawsuit was filed in 2010 after the state cut education funding.
The state’s school finance law, S.B. 423, was a collaborative effort of the Legislature.
“While we appreciate the Legislature’s effort it simply falls short of the mark needed to get all of our students to proficiency,” Rupe said in a statement today. “The Supreme Court’s opinion allows Kansas schools to remain open for the 2018-19 school year and provides the Legislature additional time to develop a constitutional system. We trust that the Legislature can come together and solve the issue in short order to avoid any future disruption of Kansas students’ education. The cuts to education were painful as they occurred and continue to be as painful today. We look forward to gaining the resources to reverse these cuts. Our kids deserve no less.”
Rupe stated that Kansas continues to lead the nation in the ongoing process to fully fund public education.
“Kansas has done it civilly, without yelling and screaming, and in an orderly process, with no teacher strikes and no huge drama,” he stated. “Armed with this court decision today, the Kansas Legislature has a precise roadmap to guide it to constitutionality. For the sake of all Kansas kids, we hope the Legislature arrives soon at that destination.”
Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is running for governor, released a statement on the Gannon ruling today:
“When I became governor earlier this year, I outlined my priorities for a school finance plan. Specifically, one that would keep our schools open, get more money into the classroom and improve student outcomes without raising taxes. And we got it done.
“As a doctor, I know it is important to see continuous improvement. We will maintain a sharp focus on sending dollars to the classroom without raising taxes.
“I look forward to building upon the work we did together this year to address the remaining issues identified in the ruling.”
State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist., whose district includes parts of Leavenworth County and western Wyandotte County, issued a statement today that said the court overstepped its boundaries. Fitzgerald is running for Congress in the 2nd District currently.
His statement asked people to sign an online petition to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November.
“There needs to be a constitutional amendment making clear that the court cannot dictate how much of your wealth to take for any purpose,” Fitzgerald said in his statement. “It can decide if the money is equitably distributed.”
State Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist, released this statement:
“I agree with the Supreme Court more money needs to be added and giving the Legislature (until) the 2019 session makes sense,” Sen. Pettey stated. “The revenues have been up every month so we will have a year to measure on and a special session would have opened up everything for consideration and that would not have been good. Families can rest easy school will open on time.”
State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., sent this statement:
“For several years through litigation (first the Montoy and now the Gannon lawsuits), the Kansas Supreme Court has responded to the complex questions of state government’s primary function: the adequacy of funding and application of dollars necessary to adequately educate Kansas schoolchildren, Kindergarten-12, to a suitable readiness in an increasingly competitive world market,” Sen. Haley stated. “Today’s ruling, which affirms that just over $4 million will be received by USD 500 in my Senate District in the next fiscal year, graciously gives our Legislature until April of 2019 to find additional school funding (as, coincidentally, recommended by an independently commissioned conservative Republican study) to further address our prime directive; which keeps Kansas competitive in attractive and maintaining a growing, family-oriented workforce. My experience leads me to strongly believe that in our growing state’s economy these resources will be found available without any tax increase on working Kansas families.”
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued the following statement on the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision today in Gannon v. Kansas:
“Today’s brief and unanimous decision has several positive attributes: It affirms that the school-funding system is constitutionally equitable, approves of targeting new funding toward helping underperforming students, ensures Kansas schools remain open and operating this fall, flatly rejects the plaintiffs’ unreasonable demands for an additional $1 billion windfall, and provides a relatively clear path for the Legislature to reach what the court will consider constitutionally adequate school funding,” Schmidt stated. “Still, compliance with this order will require the Legislature to appropriate significantly more funding starting next year. I continue to believe that Kansans should be given the chance to vote on a constitutional amendment to indicate whether this litigation-driven funding system is really how they want school-funding decisions to be made.”
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democratic candidate for governor, released this statement on the Gannon case:
“We all know that schools are the key to a strong economy and a bright future for our state. When our children succeed, our state succeeds. I’m grateful for the court’s work and I respect its decision. We will work together in the coming year to fully fund our schools and give all children the opportunities they deserve.
“From my very first legislative session, I have fought to fully fund our schools. I supported significant new investments in 2005 and worked to improve early childhood programs. When Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer made the largest cut to our schools in state history – I fought back. I will continue to work on behalf of our children.
“It is critical that we have new leadership in the governor’s office next session – someone with a strong record of standing up for Kansas students, teachers and families. As governor, I will make our schools a top priority again. Instead of focusing on doing the minimum, we will begin to plan and innovate. We will make sure Kansas has the greatest schools in the nation so our children can be ready for the jobs of the future,” Kelly said.
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, a Republican candidate for Kansas governor who is a CPA, issued this statement:
“We need more accountability in our education spending. If we don’t have leadership in the governor’s office and accountability from the local school districts, we will continuously have costly litigation,” Selzer said.
“We need to be more focused on preparing children to be reading ready before entering kindergarten. We also need accountability for achieving K-12 education performance targets and metrics. In addition, we need schools to align output with the needs of their local business community, by preparing graduating students to fill jobs,” Selzer said.
“Kansas can do better. We can get more from every tax dollar just as we have done in the last three years in the Insurance Department. As governor, I will be a champion for education,” he said.
Carl Brewer, a Democratic candidate for governor, released this statement:
“Today the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled state lawmakers have once again failed to adequately fund our public education system. This was not surprising and was completely avoidable if the Legislature followed the recommendations of its own study. Instead, they took the easy way out, deciding to fund schools in a manner that many knew would probably not meet the constitutional standard.
“We can’t keep treating Kansas students as though they only deserve the bare minimum. Their education is vital to the entire health of our state. Good schools are the building block to creating a successful and dynamic work force, and to creating a welcoming state where people want to live,” Brewer stated.
“But more than that, we have a moral obligation to give our children an education that gives them a chance at a successful future. Our children will enter the national and global workforce finding they lack the skills others have been taught. Kansas candidates for tomorrow’s jobs will have been given the bare minimum education.
“It’s time for Kansas to prioritize our children and their future – our future. To ensure every child gets a fair and adequate education is just the starting point. We need more than just lip service from career Topeka politicians. We need leaders who will stand up to those whose goals result in harming the quality of public schools across our state,” Brewer stated.
The court’s decision is online at http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2018/20180625/113267.pdf.