In a unanimous decision today, the Kansas Supreme Court gave the legislature until the end of the current school year to pass a new school funding mechanism that meets the state constitution’s adequacy mandate. Here’s how a number of interested parties and legislators are reacting to the news. (We’ll add new comments as they come in).
Rep. Stephanie Clayton
I am pleased to see that, thus far, reactions from fellow legislators, and the Attorney General have all had the same tenor: that there is work to be done, and that swift action must be taken. I have every confidence that Legislative Leadership, as well as the Governor’s office, will allow us to craft a sustainable solution that will fulfill our constitutional obligation to the people of Kansas.
Rep. Melissa Rooker
Today’s Gannon decision comes as no surprise to me. Having followed Kansas school finance issues since the Montoy case, I have long advocated for increased funding for our K-12 public schools. I introduced HB 2270 a few weeks ago in an attempt to prepare for this ruling and stand ready to work the bill when we return from our break. A common refrain from critics of Gannon and Montoy is that public education advocates will always want more. This erroneous conclusion stems from the belief that our K-12 public schools simply spend inefficiently. The court decision calls on the legislature to pay attention to actual costs required to achieve desired outcomes in crafting a constitutional remedy. Key factors that affect costs must not be ignored: expected outcomes (state education standards), student learning needs (language, poverty, disability), and unique district characteristics. Today’s ruling affirms the contention of the plaintiffs that state funding levels have failed to provide all Kansas children the opportunity to successfully meet the state education standards. The path forward is clear, and I am confident we will meet the challenge.
Sen. Barbara Bollier
As expected by many of us, the Supreme Court today ruled that Kansas is NOT providing adequate funding to meet the benchmarks put in place by the legislature. The ruling reinforces the critical need to increase state revenues. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed our recent tax package that would begin the path to revenue reform. I stand in disagreement with his decision and recognize that we MUST have adequate money to constitutionally fund our public schools. The Court has given us leeway to solve this problem while clearly stating that student outcomes are absolutely impacted by total money spent. The direct cuts to classroom spending over the past years must end. I am eager to get both a funding formula and a tax package done long before the June 30th deadline; our students are depending on us!
Rep. Jarrod Ousley
This is what we’ve known all along. We’ve been waiting for the ruling, and I am thankful for the 3-Judge Panel’s work in sorting through the 21,000 pages of evidence, and the Supreme Court’s decision. This case was brought to the Courts, and they’ve done their job. In the 2008 to 2009 school year, under a funding formula that was deemed constitutional, Kansas funded each student at a base of $4,400 a year. This year we are funding at the levels frozen with the block grant in 2014, at $3,852 per child. Our kids don’t get a second chance at their elementary, middle, or high school classes. Every delay in sufficiently funding our public schools has a real impact – the Supreme Court held that one in four Kansas children are not proficient in reading or math. The fallout from the devastating 2012 experiment is clear. It’s time to end it.
Rep. Jerry Stogsdill
The Gannon decision verifies that education has been under attack by the Governor and his loyalists in the Legislature over the last six years and that it has had a significantly negative impact on our educational system in Kansas. It also points out how our outstanding teachers have been treated unfairly and how changes need to be made to make sure we are able to attract and retain outstanding educators. Finding the remedy to this issue is going to take a coalition of Democrats and Republican moderates. Fortunately, as far as the House goes, we have shown such a coalition is not only possible, but has actually functioned as it should when last week we passed the Due Process bill. overrode the Governor’s tax veto and passed Medicaid expansion legislation. This decision will make that Democratic/Moderate coalition more important than ever. Stay tuned as this is just getting started.
Game on For Kansas Schools
The Kansas Supreme Court has once again ruled against the State of Kansas and determined that its school funding is inadequate and unconstitutional. It has given the legislature until the end of the school year to draft a constitutional school funding plan and has retained jurisdiction to evaluate the new plan. We fully expected this decision and hope the legislature will proceed promptly with a new school finance plan and appreciate the importance of providing a revenue stream that will allow our state to properly invest in the education of our children. As the court’s opinion outlines, the children of Kansas benefitted from an infusion of funding before the Great Recession, and have suffered as our schools have endured inadequate funding for nearly a decade. It’s time for our state to honor its commitment to our children and our state’s future.
The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the State of Kansas has inadequately funded public education, in violation of the Constitution of the State of Kansas, and the Court’s previous rulings. It has ordered the state to remedy the situation by June 30, 2017.
In essence, the Kansas Legislature must pass a school funding bill, this session, that affords every Kansan an equal opportunity at a quality education.
This is an exciting ruling, and a great day for Kansas, Kansas children, and the future of our state. There is no more important factor in the success of individuals, of business, or of communities than the quality of public education. The Court has affirmed that the Kansas Constitution requires that a quality, equitable education be afforded to every Kansan, and now the state must ensure this is the case.
The next steps will not be easy, or simple. Gov. Brownback’s short sighted and ineffective tax policies have left Kansas in a deep financial hole. In their attempts to fill that hole, the Governor’s allies in the Kansas Legislature have continued to trim and scrape and cut education budgets. That will no longer be acceptable.
Now, the Legislature must face reality. In order to adequately serve Kansans, in order to fulfill the promise of the Constitution, restoring sensible revenue policy is a requirement. We stand behind those legislators who already voted for fair and balanced tax reform. And we urge those who have voted in the past to support the Governor’s unbalanced policies—high sales taxes affecting low and middle income Kansans, coupled with low or zero taxes on the highest income brackets—we urge those legislators to now vote for comprehensive tax reform.
We also stand with those legislators working to craft a solid, responsible plan for public education funding. The current system of one-size-fits-all block grants has been ruled unconstitutional, and must be replaced with a flexible, thorough, ethical formula that guarantees an adequate and fair education for all Kansans.
Finally, the Legislature is required to balance this year’s budget, still in the red from too little revenue returned by current administration policies. There are no easy answers here, and we encourage legislators to make the difficult decisions ahead with an eye to the future and their responsibility to ALL Kansans firmly in their hearts.
The Supreme Court has marked the standard for Kansas to meet, one of high achievement and fair treatment, as laid out in the Kansas Constitution. We are encouraged by this, and by the demonstrated willingness of the 2017 Legislature to make the decisions needed to reach those goals. We encourage all Kansans to get involved in this process: contact your legislators through ksleglookup.org, and ask them to help.
Do more than vote.
The decision today comes as no surprise and we hope this refocuses efforts in Topeka into creating an adequate school funding formula that does not create an additional burden to the poor and middle class. Additionally, we remain optimistic significant changes are on the horizon within the educational system as a whole. The 15,000 African American students, the 33,000 Hispanic students, the 1/3 of all students who receive free or reduced lunch students, who, per the decision, “are not proficient in reading and math”, along with all Kansas Students will soon be able to select an education they feel is best for them. We will be discussing this further at our monthly meeting next Tuesday, March 7th at O’Neill’s at 95th and Mission Road. We invite all who are interested to join us.