Kansas school districts and the state legislature have been battling for at least three decades over school funding. The pending legal issue is whether the state is meeting its constitutional obligation to adequately fund education as measured by the Rose standards. More than a dozen different Kansas judges over the past 20 years have all come to the same conclusion – that the legislature is shortchanging Kansas kids.
Filed in 1989 – Mock vs State – A trial court found that the system used to fund the schools was unconstitutional and gave the governor and legislature time to fix it. As a result, during the 1992 legislative session, our current school finance formula was adopted.
Filed in 1992 – USD 229 vs State – The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the new finance formula and clarified that Article 6 of the Kansas constitution required that the State of Kansas provide adequate and equitable educational funding to all schools.
Filed in 1999 – Montoy vs State – The 1992 formula did not adequately recognize that some kids cost more to educate than others, resulting in an inequitable distribution of funding across the state. The trial court found the formula blatantly unconstitutional and ordered the state to fund the actual costs of educating Kansas kids. The legislature did a cost study to find the appropriate amount of needed funding. The cost study found the state to be about $1 billion short of funding actual costs. The Kansas Supreme Court validated the trial court decision in 2005. The legislature reacted in 2005 and 2006 with a multi-year, phased in increase which more equitably distributed funding and added $755 million per year to school funding.
2009 – As the economy soured the state began to CUT school funding by $511 million per year rather than raise the agreed amount of revenue. The phased in funding plan was not completed.
2010 – Schools For Fair Funding, representing 52 school districts and 144,792 kids in Kansas (approximately 32% of the kids in the state) filed the Gannon vs State case asking that funding cuts be restored.
2012 – The state revenue shortage increased substantially as the state eliminated state income tax on many businesses and individuals causing the state to claim that it could not afford to fund the schools.
2013 – A three judge panel in Topeka unanimously found the school finance system unconstitutional again. The case was appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.
2014 – The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state failed to equitably fund education in Kansas, meaning students in less wealthy districts did not have access to the same level of education resources as wealthier districts. The court also sent back to the three judge panel the issue of whether the state was adequately funding education based on the Rose standards.
2014 – During the 2014 legislative session, the Kansas Legislature and the Governor approved a school funding bill adding $130 million funding to address the equity issue. The bill also contained about a dozen non-related policy revisions, including reduced funding for at risk students, addition of private school vouchers, elimination of new facilities money, elimination of tenure rights for teachers and establishment of a school efficiency commission.
Present – A ruling is pending from the three judge panel on the issue of adequacy. A decision is likely to be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court. Legislative action prior to any decision by the Kansas Supreme Court would be premature.