FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 7, 2014
Joyce Eisenmenger Morrison
Somers, Robb and Robb
110 East Broadway
Newton, KS 67114
Phone (316) 283 4560
Cell: (316) 288 4560
Kutak Rock LLP
1605 N. Waterfront Pkwy Suite 150
Wichita, KS 67206
Phone (316) 609 7901
Cell (316) 304 8573
KS SUPREME COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS
(NEWTON, Kansas) Schools for Fair Funding, a coalition of 48 school districts, won a partial victory in the courts today for Kansas public school children. The Kansas Supreme Court on 3.7.14 upheld the Kansas Constitution and ordered the state to pay about $129 million dollars to the schools by July 1, 2014. The balance of requested funding will be determined after a lower court redefines the meaning of “adequate” education. “It’s a good ruling for Kansas public school children and we are grateful,” said SFFF president, Justin Henry, Superintendent of USD 265 in Goddard, KS. “We are hopeful policy makers will now restore funding so we can do the best job possible of preparing our students to live in a complex and challenging world.”
Friday’s Supreme Court decision is the most recent ruling in a series of lawsuits brought against the state starting in the early 1990’s. “More than 20 judges over the past 20 years have consistently ruled that the state is shortchanging the kids of Kansas,” said John Robb, General Counsel for SFFF. “It is again time for the legislature to do what the constitution requires and restore funding to the schools.”
Alan Rupe, Trial Counsel for SFFF said, “Kansas students have a constitutional right to a suitable education. The Kansas Supreme Court has just confirmed what the business community, students, parents, and educators in Kansas all know – we are chronically underfunding public education in Kansas. Our schoolchildren are not getting the education they deserve. The Legislature needs to live up to its constitutional responsibilities before we lose any more kids to an inadequate education. Enough is enough.”
In terms of the ruling, the court affirmed the right of the students and the school districts to take the issue of school funding to the courts. On the issue of funding schools, the court will require the legislature to fund $25.2 million in capital outlay equalization and $103.9 million in Local Option Budget funding by July 1st. Additional funding could be determined after the lower court rules on the definition of “adequacy.”
The court found the lower court did not apply the correct standards as to whether there were adequate resources and whether an adequate education is being provided. The court sent this issue back to the three judge panel to determine whether the adequacy requirement of the constitution is being met. “Based on the correct standards we are confident that the lower court will find again that the state underfunded education,” Robb said.
Schools For Fair Funding, which represents more than one-third of Kansas public school children, also sponsored the Montoy litigation. The issue in that litigation was also whether the state had met its constitutional obligation to make “suitable provision” of resources for K-12. In 2006, as a result of the litigation, the legislature agreed to phase in an additional annual $755 million in school funding over three years. Before the phase-in could be completed the legislature cut over $511 million from the classrooms.
SFFF brought the current lawsuit – Gannon vs. State of Kansas – in 2010 following state budget reductions that began in 2009. The suit sought to restore the cuts that have been made to all schools after the legislature failed to abide by the Montoy settlement. The lawsuit also asked to restore funding to constitutionally required levels. A district court unanimously ruled in favor of the school districts. The decision was appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.
Earlier this year the state also cut income taxes significantly. “The policy makers cut taxes instead of funding public education,” said Shelly Kiblinger, superintendent of USD 308 in Hutchinson and a vice president of SFFF. “Tax cuts are nice, but not at the expense of our children’s essential educational needs. Our public schools know how to educate our students; we just need the funding to do it.”