After finding that the Kansas legislature has failed for 12 of the past 15 years to provide the level of adequate school funding required by the state constitution, the Kansas Supreme Court last October ordered the State to enact a new state funding system before April 30, 2018. Shortly before the deadline last month, the State legislature and the governor approved a $500 million funding increase, to be phased in over five years. Gannon v. State. Plaintiffs’ lawyers, however, have now filed a brief alleging that this amount is insufficient to meet the constitutional requirements.
The legislature’s plan faced tough questioning from some of the Supreme Court justices in a hearing held last week. Several justices raised concerns that the new plan ignores recommendations in a state-commissioned study, uses as a base an old per-pupil funding level, and that the phase-in of additional money could be detrimental to students in the interim.
Alan Rupe, an attorney representing the plaintiff school districts, said an additional $506 million was needed just in fiscal 2019, with inflation-adjusted increases to reach as much as $2 billion in higher funding in future years. He urged justices to give state lawmakers a road map to reach adequate funding and to retain jurisdiction over the case to ensure that future Kansas legislatures adhere to a court-approved plan.
Toby Crouse, the state solicitor general, said the new plan provides an adequate and equitable funding formula. She argued that court should approve the latest funding plan and end the case, which dates back to 2010.
The Court specified in its ruling last year that it would rule on the state’s compliance with its order by June 30, 2018.