Friday, March 7, 2014

KS Court School Funding Ruling Issued - Gavel Grab

The Kansas Supreme Court
Sixty years after the U.S. Supreme Court voided the state's segregated public school laws, the state's Supreme Court in Gannon v. Kansas has unanimously rejected the Legislature's spending education reductions, saying that it creates "wealth-based"  inequities which violate the State Constitution's promise of an "adequate" system of public education:
"As for the capital outlay funding claims, we hold the panel correctly ruled that the State created unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities by withholding all capital outlay state aid payments to which certain school districts were otherwise entitled under K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 72-8814(c). We additionally hold the panel correctly refused to order payment of capital outlay state aid to which districts were otherwise entitled for fiscal year 2010. We further hold that the panel correctly ruled that the State created unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities by prorating the supplemental general state aid payments to which certain districts were entitled under K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 72-6434 for their local option budgets." 
Although the court remanded in part - saying that adequacy is not simply a question of funding-  it explicitly adopted the a definition of adequacy borrowed from the Kentucky Supreme Court in Rose v. Council for Better Education, Inc., 790 S.W.2d 186 (Ky 1989):
"[A]n efficient system of education must have as its goal to provide each and every child with at least the seven following capacities: (i) sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization; (ii) sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the student to make informed choices; (iii) sufficient understanding of governmental processes to enable the student to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state, and nation; (iv) sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her mental and physical wellness; (v) sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage; (vi) sufficient training or preparation for advanced training in either academic or vocational fields so as to enable each child to choose and
pursue life work intelligently; and (vii) sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their Counterparts in surrounding states, in academics or in the job market." 790 S.W.2d at 212.

by Peter Hardin

In a long-awaited ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court found unconstitutional on Friday the state’s current public education funding levels. It sent the case back to a lower court for further review.

The Associated Press summed up the high court’s reasoning this way: “[T]he court said Kansas’ poor school districts were harmed when the state made the decision to cut certain payments when tax revenues declined during the Great Recession.”

In its unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court instructed the trial court to ensure that school funding was equitable in districts across the state. It asked the court to determine “promptly” an adequate level of funding, and established a deadline of July 1 for lawmakers to replenish two funds that are intended to help poorer school districts, through support for their capital improvements and general operations.

The Supreme Court did not determine whether Kansas schools were adequately funded. Instead, it ruled the lower court applied the wrong standard of review, and sent that portion of the case back down for reexamination.

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