States sued over education funding

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Any week now, the Kansas Supreme Court will rule on a lawsuit filed by parents and school districts alleging that school spending cuts violate the state’s constitution, which promises “suitable” funding for public education.


In Gannon v. State of Kansas, a trial court ruled last year that cuts to school spending that began in 2009, which resulted in larger class sizes, teacher and staff layoffs, and cuts in services for at-risk students, reduced school funding below a “suitable” level. The judges ordered the state to increase per-pupil funding to a constitutionally-mandated level.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, which is expected to hand down a ruling soon. Republican lawmakers have threatened to remove the court from having jurisdiction over challenges to the state’s education funding.

Sciarra of the Education Law Center said that if the state Supreme Court sides with Kansas, it “sends a signal across the country that we can just continue on with business as usual as far as how states fund education.” And if the lawmakers follow through with their threat, Sciarra said, it would undermine the judiciary’s role as the interpreter of law.

Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.