December 30, 2014
Contact: Joyce Morrison – Communications – 913-310-0472
U.S.D. 259 Wichita
U.S.D. 443 Dodge City
U.S.D. 500 Kansas City
U.S.D. 265 Goddard
U.S.D. 253 Emporia
U.S.D. 308 Hutchinson
Somers, Robb & Robb
PLAINTIFF SCHOOL DISTRICTS RESPOND TO COURT RULING
Superintendents from the lead Kansas school districts in the Gannon v. State of Kansas school finance litigation responded today to the Shawnee County District Court three judge panel ruling on school funding. The Superintendents expressed appreciation for the favorable ruling while urging legislators to wait on school funding decisions until the Kansas Supreme Court rules on the case.
A three judge panel again ruled today that underfunding the school finance formula is unconstitutional. The ruling is part of ongoing court litigation that resulted in a Kansas Supreme Court finding in early 2014 that the State was not equitably funding education. While the legislature remedied that issue during the 2014 session, the Supreme Court sent back to the district court the issue of whether Kansas children were receiving a constitutionally adequate education based on the Rose standards. Today’s decision was in response to the Supreme Court directive.
Paraphrasing the language of the Supreme Court, the Panel found that “the Kansas public education financing system provided by the legislature for grades K-12 – through structure and implementation – is not presently reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed the Rose factors.”
“An educated workforce is key to Kansas’ economic success,” said John Allison, Superintendent of the Wichita Public Schools-USD259. “I am pleased to see the court’s affirmation that an adequately-funded education is of vital importance to Kansas. While we won’t immediately know the impact of the ruling, we do believe today’s court decision is a great one for today’s students and the future of our state.”
U.S.D. 308 Superintendent Shelly Kiblinger of Hutchinson echoed those comments. “A final decision from the Supreme Court may take up to a year, so any change to school budgets and the funding formula would be premature until we get that ruling.”
According to the court, the formula and its various weighting components are not the problem. The formula is constitutional. The problem continues to be the lack of funding appropriated by the legislature to make the formula operate as required by the State constitution. The panel emphasized that the State is ultimately the party responsible under the Kansas Constitution for ensuring the adequacy of public education.
“We expect that this case will be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court,” said Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. “In the meantime our goals remain the same and those are to prepare every student for college and careers in a global society.”
In Dodge City, U.S.D. 443 Superintendent, Alan Cunningham said “In order to accomplish the goal of making every child college or career ready, we need appropriate resources to do our jobs. We continue to have faith that the Kansas legislature will work to ensure that every Kansas child has access to an adequate and fully funded formula for education.”
Timeline of school finance litigation in recent history:
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 – The three judge panel again ruled that the school finance formula is constitutional but that it was
unconstitutionally underfunded by the legislature on the issue of adequacy. The decision will be appealed to the
Kansas Supreme Court. Legislative action prior to any decision by the Kansas Supreme Court would be premature.