Kansas Supreme Court Rules on School Funding Laws

BY JADEN MOUNT

For the third time in the past two years, the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that state laws on school funding do not adhere to the state constitution.

The court’s unanimous ruling determined that school funding laws passed during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions did not meet requirements under Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution. However, according to court documents, the laws could meet these requirements “By timely making financial adjustments in response to the problems identified with the State’s chosen remediation plan and its accompanying calculations and then by completing that plan…”

The fight for school funding started back in 2010 when four school districts sued the state for inadequate funding. At that time, claims held the funding was short of $1.5 billion.

In March 2017, the Republican-controlled government, both legislative and executive, increased funding by a court order after raising income taxes to combat budget shortfalls. In an October 2017 ruling, the court declared the increase was still not enough.

Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer held a press conference to discuss the ruling of the court, focusing on the opening and closing of schools.

“When I became governor earlier this year,” said Colyer “I outlined several priorities for solving the educational problem. The focus was that we would not close schools. We will keep them open. We’re focusing more money in the classrooms and actually getting outcomes for our schools. And we got it done. The most important thing that happened today is that the supreme court ruled that schools will remain open. Schools will not be closed in the state of Kansas, that threat is gone. I make a commitment to the people of Kansas to keep schools open and we are. And we are moving this ball forward here.”

Colyer also praised the court ruling on a very specific aspect.

“I’m very pleased about a very important part of the ruling that the court made and that was that all schools were found to be equitable. That means that every kid, whether they be in Wichita or Hays or Johnson County or Galena or Ulysses, that they all should have the same educational opportunity under this ruling and that is very important for every kid across the state.”

Leaders from both parties have joined Colyer in support the court’s ruling, including primary candidates for Kansas Governor Election this November. Kansas Secretary of State and Republican Primary Candidate Kris Kobach has not been so supportive, saying the court “is now micromanaging every dollar spent on education even down to calculating adjustments for inflation.”

The Kansas State Legislature convened their 2018 session back in April and will begin their 2019 session after the November Midterm Elections in January.

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