Gannon school funding case briefs filed

Briefs supporting and challenging the new school finance law in Kansas were filed Monday with the Kansas Supreme Court.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed briefs supporting the new law, while Schools for Fair Funding attorneys filed an opening brief saying the state did not meet its burden to comply with the supreme court’s guidelines last year in the Gannon case. The school finance bill was passed April 4.

Schools for Fair Funding represents the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools and more than 40 school districts, around a third of the state’s school districts.

One of the issues over the past years of the Gannon and other school finance cases has been that while the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the public school districts should receive more money, the school districts have been unable to collect that money from the state of Kansas.

The opening brief from Schools for Fair Funding stated that the bill that passed April 4 has an increase of about $92 million for one time in fiscal year 2020, but after that, the bill does not contain any further funding increases. The court had ordered the state to provide new money to fund inflation, which was calculated by the State Board of Education to be about $363 million, according to the Schools for Fair Funding brief.

In other words, the SFF attorneys believe the state is funding only about one-fourth of the amount that the State Board of Education said is necessary.

“While the State has increased funding to account for some inflation, it has not completed the plan nor complied with this Court’s Order,” the brief from Schools for Fair Funding stated. “The State has simply failed to develop a plan that works the way that inflation adjustments work. By its own math, the State is $271 million short of complying with Gannon VI. Plaintiffs ask this Court to declare that S.B. 16 does not comply with this Court’s Order in Gannon VI.”

The Schools for Fair Funding attorneys have stated previously that the bill that passed April 4 counted the same $92 million increase in the first year as an increase every year, instead of adding new increases for the following years. The SFF attorneys previously called it “funny math.”

The attorney general’s office, in its brief filed Monday, argued, “When the Legislature, the Governor, and the State Board are in accord, this Court should give great weight to the considered decisions of both the education officials and the People’s representatives. That is particularly true here given the widespread, bipartisan consensus that SB 16 brings the State into compliance with Article 6.”

The state’s brief also said, “Just because some plaintiff districts will always want more money, they should not be allowed to single-handedly override the Governor’s and Legislature’s reasonable and considered funding determinations that are in accord with the analysis of the State Board and that were made in light of the many competing demands on limited state funds.”

The state also argued, “All litigation – even school finance litigation – must eventually end. In Kansas, that time has come.”

Gov. Laura Kelly filed a document Monday asking permission to file as a friend of the court. The document stated that Gov. Kelly adopted the Kansas State Board of Education’s school funding plan and incorporated it into her budget proposal.

The resulting bill was the culmination of the work the State Board of Education did to craft its plan, as well as the work of the governor and her budget team and the work of legislators, according to the governor’s document.

More briefs are due in court April 25, with oral arguments set to begin May 9.

To see the documents filed in this case, visit https://kansascourts.org/l/jMEl0be7rPevjfzu-kKR__3CbIXeHZ1-clPM2pWScOE.

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