In latest Gannon ruling, Kansas Supreme Court says new K-12 formula does not meet adequacy requirement — but lays out path to constitutionality

Kansas Supreme Court file photo. Credit Kansas Courts.

The Kansas legislature’s latest K-12 funding plan does not meet the “adequacy” threshold required by the state constitution — but it could be made constitutional with relatively straightforward changes, the Kansas Supreme Court said in a ruling issued Monday afternoon.

In the long-awaited ruling, the justices said that the legislature’s failure to take inflation into account when calculating the amount of new money to be injected into K-12 schools rendered the current plan out of compliance. That adjustment could require hundreds of millions of additional dollars to be allocated to the K-12 system over the next few years.

However, the justices said they would allow the current bill to go into effect as planned for the coming school year, and give the 2019 legislature the opportunity to correct the problems when they convene for their regular session early next year.

“This action acknowledges the State’s position—that the 2018 legislature’s efforts and the amount of money added for the approaching school year should permit such an extension through the 2019 regular legislative session—and effectively grants its repeated request to so extend,” reads the ruling.

That means schools will open in August as planned. Under the K-12 funding bill that the court will allow to go into effect for the coming school year, Shawnee Mission schools will see an additional $4.3 million in funding for 2018-19.

The court said it will retain jurisdiction over the case through June 30, 2019, and set a due date for briefs on whatever fix the legislature approves next session for late April 2019, with oral arguments set for early May 2019.

However, the justices urged the legislature to consider ways to correct the inadequacies sooner than later.

“Acceleration is greatly encouraged because 286 school districts must plan for the upcoming school year—districts that serve more than 489,000 students and employ more than 37,000 teachers, over 3,600 other licensed personnel, and over 26,000 unclassified employees,” reads the ruling.

The justices explicitly state that the legislature’s current plan corrects the “constitutional infirmities regarding equity” that it had identified in an earlier ruling. Work remains to be done on the adequacy front, however.

“The State has not met the adequacy requirement in Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution under its proposed remediation plan,” reads the ruling. “But if the State chooses to make timely financial adjustments in response to the problems identified with the plan and its accompanying calculations and then completes that plan, the State can bring the K-12 public education financing system into constitutional compliance with the adequacy requirement.”

The full ruling is embedded below:

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We’ve put out a call for comment on the ruling to all 18 elected statehouse officials whose districts include a portion of the Shawnee Mission School District footprint. We’ve asked for reactions from a handful of local advocacy organizations as well. We’ll publish all the responses we’ve received at 8 a.m. tomorrow.