The power of the courts to order a legislature to comply with specific court orders requiring significant funding increases was the major issue raised in oral arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court last week. The case involved an appeal of a lower court ruling in Gannon v. State. that enjoined the state from reducing state aid below amounts that had been established to comply with the state supreme court’s orders in a prior litigation. Kansas Litigation History.
Lawyers for the state argued that the court could not prevent the Legislature from readjusting funding to account for current financial realities. Stephen R. McAllister, a University of Kansas law professor representing the state, argued that the state constitution is “neither a suicide pact, nor a bankruptcy pact.” Justice Eric Rosen questioned the state’s reliability in adequately funding public school education and maintained that the current concern was the Legislature’s refusal to comply with the court’s past rulings. He said, “It stands before me, in my eyes, as a broken promise. If that promise had been kept, we would not be here.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs emphasized the Legislature’s violation of its constitutional obligation to provide a “suitable provision” for financing public school education. They pointed to recent tax cuts which were implemented despite a $400 million gap in education funding. Alan L. Rupe, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, denounced the tax cuts and the state leaders’ ability to “stand here to plead they cannot increase funding to schools.”
State spending on education has decreased by approximately 16.5% since 2008 with the base foundation funding decreasing from $4,4492 to $3,838 per student. Governor Mark Parkinson and the Legislature began reducing the amount of school aid in 2009 due to the Great Recession and the reduction continued with $500 million in cuts under Governor Sam Brownback, leading to increased class sizes and teacher layoffs.
A Supreme Court decision is anticipated by early January 2014.
October 17, 2013