Schools for Fair Funding – Trial Court Adequacy Decision Analysis

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GANNON V. STATE OF KANSAS
TRIAL COURT ADEQUACY DECISION ANALYSIS
DECEMBER 30, 2014

 
Background.
The Gannon case was filed in 2010 alleging that Kansas schools were not adequately funded and
portions of the funding were not equitably distributed. The case was assigned to special three judge
panel in Topeka and tried in the summer of 2012. Trial consisted of five weeks of live witnesses, 662
exhibits consisting of 18,727 pages and 3,672 pages of trial testimony. The trial court decision was
originally issued January 11, 2013, and the school finance system was again found unconstitutional
“beyond any question.”

 
The decision was appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court which considered the appeal and issued its
Gannon decision on March 7, 2014, dividing its opinion into two areas: equity and adequacy.
As to equity: Kansas had a scheme where the state kicks in aid to increase the purchasing power for
poor districts to level the playing field. When the cuts began, the state stopped this aid for capital
outlay and curtailed it for LOB. The supreme court found that not funding the equalization formulas
was not equitable and therefore unconstitutional. The court set down a new three part constitutional
test for equity in Kansas. “School districts must have (1) reasonably equal access to (2) substantially
similar educational opportunity (3) through similar tax effort.” The Supreme Court gave the legislature
time to remedy the equity issue and the 2014 legislature re-enacted and added $130 million to fund the
equalization provisions to cure the deficiency. The trial court approved this fix in June of 2014
As to adequacy: The original trial court found that the way the system was financed was
unconstitutional but the Supreme Court found that the trial court did NOT make a finding that Kansas
kids were not receiving an adequate education. They remanded the case back to the trial court to
decide if Kansas kids were receiving an adequate education as measured by the Kentucky Rose
standards. Although the Rose Standards had been statutorily adopted in Kansas for many years, the
Supreme Court formally adopted the standards as the official measure of adequacy under the Kansas
Constitution. The Supreme Court stated that it was up to the trial court to determine if a new trial was
needed or if they could make the needed findings on the record from the original trial. The plaintiff
districts asked the trial court to simply consider the record and write a new opinion. The State of
Kansas asked for a complete new trial.

 
On December 30, 2014, the trial court issued its new decision on adequacy
The Gannon trial court adequacy decision analysis.
The Trial Court’s second Gannon ruling runs 117 pages plus exhibits. The trial court first explains the
background of the case including the mandate from the Supreme Court set forth above. The trial court
then reiterated that the legislature had complied with the equity mandates in regard to capital outlay
and LOB equalization aid. The trial court then found that no new trial was necessary and that they
could review the past trial record and take judicial notice of new legislation and data to decide the
matter. They found that the evidence from these sources was adequate to make the required decision.
The plaintiff districts had submitted proposed findings of fact from the original record, pointing to
where the evidence existed that the Rose Standards were not being met by Kansas kids. The trial court
found “We believe the Plaintiffs’ Proposed Findings of Fact attached to their pleadings for Judgment
on the Existing Record speak the truth, as we also believed their original Proposed Findings of Face
spoke the truth.” The court went on to state “We diligently searched the State’s proffers for facts or
issues that would alter our original judgment or change the course of the one we now issue and found
none would be of material, controlling significance.”

 
The court then found “the clear fact that constitutional inadequacy from any rational measure or
perspective clearly has existed and still persists in the State’s approach to funding the K-12 school
system.”

 
The court then discussed the Rose factors, saying “As such, these standards for testing the adequacy of
measures or funding of the Kansas K-12 school system have been known and hence its principles have
been implicitly recognized by the Kansas judiciary at every stage,… beginning in some measure since
1994.”

 
The court noted that “the Plaintiffs’ complaints were … occasioned from the wholesale
abandonment of the commitments made to the Montoy IV Court by the executive and legislative
branches of government….”

 
The court analyzed the legislative cost studies and found “Hence, we tested the underlying analysis of
not only the LPA study, since it had never been tested, but also retested the A&M study as to its
findings. As noted, the former was premised on meeting the Rose mirrored goals set out by K.S.A.
72-1127(c) enacted in the 2005 legislative session. We found the results of that study substantially
authenticated and supported, in dollar terms, what was needed to meet the K.S.A. 72-1127(c)
standards, the Kansas Supreme Court’s judgments made in Montoy III and Montoy IV, and, with
appropriate reconciliation of the costs factors producing both studies’ results, that the LPA study was
relatively complementary to the A&M study’s results.”

 
The court found that money makes a difference, stating “the evidence adduced revealed that, yes,
money makes a difference, such that from the infusion of new money into the K-12 educational
system, beginning in 2005 after Montoy II and ending with the commitments made to the Montoy IV
Court in 2006, until the beginning of the retreat from those commitments after the BSAPP had reached
$4,433 for FY2009 on July l, 2008, student performances/achievements, based on accepted testing
methods, evidenced considerable progress, i.e., money was making a difference.”

 
The court then found “that the current funding levels, having devolved to pre-Montoy levels,
could not be sustained, that is, that no evidence justified a conclusion that what was now less funding
could somehow equate to equal or more in supporting the outcomes demanded by the K.S.A.
72-1127(c) standards and the study experts opinions.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
JOHN S. ROBB ˜ SOMERS, ROBB & ROBB ˜ NEWTON, KS ˜ JOHNROBB@ROBBLAW.COM ˜ 316.283.4560
ALAN L. RUPE ˜ KUTAK ROCK LLP ˜ WICHITA, KS ˜ ALAN.RUPE@KUTAKROCK.COM ˜ 316.609.7900

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