From ‘no surprise’ to ‘disappointed,’ local lawmakers, advocacy groups react to K-12 funding decision

Following the release of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Gannon case Monday afternoon, we put out a call for comment from all 18 members of the Shawnee Mission area delegation to the statehouse as well as local advocacy groups.

Here’s what they had to say about the court’s finding that the current K-12 funding plan is still constitutionally inadequate – and the road forward.

Sen. Barbara Bollier

The Kansas Supreme Court ruling yesterday on the Gannon school finance case comes as no surprise. The legislature failed to meet the adequacy requirement of our constitution for funding education. While the amount of money was increased, the current bill does not get school funding to a level equal (counting inflation) to the levels established and agreed to in the previous Montoy settlement. Each of us in the legislature takes an oath that we will uphold the constitution, and the Court is clear in its message to us that we must follow our oath. This next session will require us to establish and pass a plan to fully fund the education that our State School Board deems appropriate and necessary to meet the Rose Capacities set in place for our students. Fully funding a government that meets the needs of our citizens requires setting a reasonable tax plan in place. Change is necessary, and the citizenry needs to elect a Governor and House members who will thoughtfully and carefully set those policies in place; reasonable candidates who are willing to work together and stop the divisiveness are deserving of your vote in the August primary.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton

I look forward to the upcoming legislative session, where I will be humbled and honored to work alongside my colleagues from the Northeast Johnson County Delegation to find a quick, sustainable, and viable solution to our school funding issues.

Rep. Tom Cox

I look forward to finally resolving this long court case next session with my colleagues. The court has finally given a very clear path that will resolve the case, which is, current funding adjusted for inflation. Fortunately for us, revenue has continued to exceed estimates as our economy continues to grow and Kansas has returned to a balanced and stable revenue system. I believe we will be able to apply that excess revenue to solving the underfunding of our schools. The next step is working to find a way to lower our food sales tax which is one of the highest in the nation.

Rep. Cindy Holscher

Kansas voters -the ball is in your court to help us finish the job of properly funding our schools and help us end the cycle of litigation. With the Gannon ruling (as well as numerous studies), the fact that our schools are drastically under-funded should be crystal clear. What should also be clear is that the remaining far-right Brownback/Koch brother allies in the legislature have no intention WHATSOEVER of adequately funding our schools. They have been given numerous opportunities to help work toward the needed amount, yet they constantly strive to put as little money as possible toward our schools. Plus, they spend needless time seeking changes to the constitution to allow under-funding. Sadly, several of these obstructionists represent districts right here in Johnson County. The elections this fall will be pivotal; we need more reasonable people in the legislature to help us finish this task.

If you are not sure which candidates support public education, I encourage you to follow organizations like Mainstream Coalition, Stand Up Blue Valley, Game On, Education First Shawnee Mission or Olathe Pubic Education Network. All of these groups work to identify candidates who support our public schools. Then, make sure you and your neighbors show up at the voting booth this fall to support those candidates. THAT is how we end the cycle of litigation and end the underfunding of our schools. Because, if these same far right obstructionist legislators return, we will continue to have this ongoing battle to get our schools funded. The time is NOW – please get informed, work to getting your neighbors informed, and vote this fall for the sake of our kids and the future of our state.

Rep. Nancy Lusk

The Kansas Supreme Court got it right in their ruling. As several of us predicted, a lack of linkage to inflation going forward was the problem with the school finance bill that passed. The new K-12 funding level goal set in the finance bill was approximately the amount it would have been if the state had kept it up with inflation over the past ten years to the present date – EXCEPT we were not going to reach that goal until five years out from the start of the increase because of the gradual phase-in. So once again, the funding level would have been behind inflation, only this time by a half a decade, instead of by a full decade.

All Kansans should be grateful to the KS Supreme Court for doing their job and holding the legislature accountable in fulfilling the state’s responsibility to provide quality educations to our children.

Rep. Jarrod Ousley

The amount infused into the finance formula during session was unconstitutional at the time we voted, which is why I voted nay on the bill.  It is a shame we could not adequately fund the formula at the start, but I am looking forward to the opportunity to do so next session.  There are high school sophomores who have never attended a constitutionally funded classroom. I share the frustrations of parents across the state.  It’s long past time the legislature get this right.

Rep. Brett Parker

After a pro-public education wave in 2016, it is frustrating to watch two years go by without adequately funding schools. In back to back years the legislature has passed knowingly unconstitutional bills and forced the court to reject them. We have had many opportunities to do better. Over the past 2 years, House Democrats have offered at least 7 different amendments to improve upon the lackluster plans put forth. All have failed for lack with minimal support from the majority party. Most recently, Rep. Stogsdill carried an amendment to the plan just rejected by the courts. The Stogsdill amendment would’ve caught us up to previously constitutional funding levels and fulling funded special education. If passed, it is likely we would’ve seen a different court ruling yesterday. While much progress has been made, it is unacceptable when a majority of the legislature can be convinced that obeying the constitution and adequately funding schools is imprudent or even optional. In reality, the continued lack of funding to our education system is the epitome of irresponsibility. It has been disappointing to watch chances to better slip by but, ever the optimistic teacher, I look forward to working to finally get this right in 2019.

Rep. Melissa Rooker

Kansas schools will remain open for business, and district officials, parents and students around the state can plan for the upcoming school year with certainty based on the Gannon VI ruling released yesterday.

Our funding formula – the mechanism by which funds are distributed to schools – has been declared constitutional on equity grounds. This is huge news. The court held that our remaining work involves making adjustments for inflation beginning next year rather than five years from now to be constitutionally adequate.

According to yesterday’s opinion:

“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.

The situation facing the State after Gannon V was released on October 2, 2017, was substantially more complex than the one facing it with the release of today’s decision…Because of the legislature’s work during the 2018 session, the issues now are narrower, e.g., funding the system the legislature created.”

The court was deferential to the legislature’s work, accepting the premise of our plan – take the Montoy settlement, adjust for inflation moving forward and apply it to the current formula and student headcount. They simply identified a weakness in the timing of the inflation adjustments.

Beware those who call for a constitutional amendment. In fact, our system works beautifully as intended. The legislature retains the power of the purse and can, through sound decision-making moving forward, provide the remedy that ends this lawsuit and keeps us from being drawn back in to future litigation. As to the notion that these are “unelected judges legislating from the bench,” keep in mind that while initially appointed by the governor, at this point all Supreme Court justices have been elected by the people of Kansas.

I am proud of the work we have done and pleased by the progress we have made. I look forward to finishing the job in the 2019 legislative session. I often remind people this is a marathon, not a sprint. Legislating involves constant focus on consensus building and compromise. Perfection is impossible, but fulfilling our constitutional duty is within reach.

Our ability to respond appropriately to the court will be shaped by outcome of the 2018 election cycle. With so much at stake, every vote matters. Please cast your vote August 7 and November 6. Advance voting information can be found here.

Rep. Jerry Stogsdill

This decision should come as no surprise to anyone who followed the school finance issue in the 2018 Legislature. When the Legislature adjourned in May the overwhelming opinion of Democrats and Republican moderates was that the school finance bill did not provide enough money to satisfy the requirements of the Kansas Supreme Court. The House bill, which did not pass muster with the Court, was, believe it or not, substantially better than the one that came to us from the ultra-conservative, anti-public school members of the Kansas Senate and their misguided leadership.

In the waning hours of the Session I had the privilege of carrying the Democratic school finance bill that would have either passed muster with the Court or would have certainly come much closer. Our bill would have added around $350 million in additional funding over 5 years. It provided more money up front, which the Court was looking for; it made adjustments for inflation and addressed the needs of our Special Ed students in Kansas. The Republican conservatives who have shown no willingness to support our public schools, our students and our economy, would have none of it and garnered enough votes among their members to defeat our bill.

If we are going to return our schools to a level of national prominence and benefit economically from that level of prominence we have to rid the Legislature and Governor’s office of those ultra-conservatives who are unwilling to support our schools, who are unwilling to invest in our economy and who put their ultra-conservative political ideology above the good of the people of Kansas. If we fail to make changes this November we will face the same ultra-conservative obstructionism, bad legislation and bad policy that, over the last 8 years, has damaged our schools, stalled our economy and severely marred the image of Kansas in the eyes of the nation.

I urge everyone to get informed, get involved and VOTE this November for Legislators and a Governor who understand the vital need for great public schools, the critical role they play in our children’s future and the invaluable cornerstone they provide for the economic future of Kansas. As always if anyone has a question or suggestion for me please don’t hesitate to get in touch. My contact information is at JerryforKansas.com.

Advocacy groups

Education First Shawnee Mission

Last year’s congressional studies confirmed our schools are some of the most efficient in the nation – we cannot continue to ask them to do more with less. Education First Shawnee Mission fully appreciates and agrees with the Kansas Supreme Court judgement. Nothing is more critical to the success of our state than our public schools.

Public schools are the economic drivers in our community – study after study shows the direct correlation between high-performing schools and growth in local economies. What better way to invest in our communities than through adequate public school funding?

Many of our Shawnee Mission legislators forecast this outcome and advocated for substantially more funding. Unfortunately, extremists in the legislature watered down the final version of the bill.

Now more than ever we must send legislators to Topeka who will advocate for our schools. Education First Shawnee Mission will announce primary endorsements in the next few days – we strongly encourage our community to VOTE in the primary election on August 7th and support pro-public education candidates! – Megan Peters, Chair, Education First Shawnee Mission

Game On for Kansas Schools

The Kansas Supreme Court’s latest decision in the Gannon school funding litigation is well-reasoned and strikes a proper balance between legislative and judicial authority. The court accepted the legislature’s choice to rely on the Montoy “safe harbor,” but correctly objected to the failure to include inflation adjustments. The state has been directed to make the inflation adjustment, effective for the 2019-2020 school year and beyond. No special session will be required. Since inflation adjustments and a question regarding the calculation of virtual school aid are the only remaining issues, the court expressed its confidence in the legislature’s ability to handle those issues in the 2019 session. While the state needs to add more funding, the reality is that districts would be challenged to utilize more funding effectively this close to the start of the 2018-19 school year. Ordering the legislature back over the summer would cause legislative tempers to flare and would likely be counterproductive.

Given the stage of the litigation and the lack of full discussion of the various cost studies, it is understandable that the court allowed the state to rely upon the Montoy “safe harbor.” It is important to remember, though, that all of this litigation has simply been about restoring Kansas education funding to where it would be if the promises in Montoy had been kept by the legislature over a decade ago, and that the number arrived at is lower than what most of the cost studies would have dictated. The restoration of funding also does not erase the intervening years of underfunding. Our students have been deprived of an adequately funded education for too long, but we are glad to see this important progress. We also hope Kansas voters realize this progress would not have been possible without the changes to the legislature that took place in 2016 and that we could revert back if public education supporters aren’t informed voters this August and November.

MainStream Coalition

The Kansas Supreme Court has delivered its ruling on the constitutionality of the Kansas Legislature’s plan to fund public schools, and has found it better, but still wanting. They have given the Legislature another legislative session to complete the work, to correct for inflation, and to ensure Kansas children receive the excellent education they deserve. A new plan is due to the Court in April of next year.

The MainStream Coalition is glad the Court has recognized the continued underfunding of public education in Kansas, and is requiring this practice be ended. We are grateful the Court did not choose to close schools for the summer, as countless Kansas children rely on the meals and services provided by public school districts during the summer months. We remain concerned for smaller and rural school districts that may still be unable to deliver the same opportunities for education as wealthier districts under this decision. And we will keep a careful watch as the Legislature works to resolve the remaining funding issues.

At MainStream, we recognize that difficult issues are resolved through compromise, and the decision of the Court supports the hard work of legislators to find a solution—both long serving members and those new to the Legislature in 2016. We encourage Kansas voters to approach these upcoming elections—the primaries on August 7th, and the general election on November 6th—with renewed attention.

As a result of this decision, the candidates we elect to the Governor’s mansion and the Kansas House of Representatives this year will ultimately decide the fate of public education in Kansas for years to come.

Brandi Fisher, Executive Director of the MainStream Coalition, said, “The most important next step is for voters to get engaged in this election, to find and support candidates who understand the importance of quality public education to the lives of Kansans, and the economy of our state.”

Now more than ever, in local, state, and national races, it is time to do more than vote. Find out how you can make a difference at mainstreamcoalition.org.

Northeast Johnson County Conservatives

We are profoundly disappointed that the Supreme Court continues to demand more money from the taxpayers of Kansas. Kansans have grown tired of the Court legislating from the bench. The money that has already been delegated to the districts has not proven to improve the scores of students. Learning isn’t measurably improving due to the increased funding over the last decade. Would Kansans be more willing to pay more in taxes if the student test scores were not flat over the last ten years? We cannot be misled by the faulty premise that higher costs produce greater results for our students. It’s time to end the decades long cycle of litigation that has caused taxes to soar.

Northwest Johnson County Republicans

About the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision Monday afternoon in the Gannon case on public school funding, the Northwest Johnson County Republicans offers these thoughts:

  • In 2018 the legislature passed a tax increase of around $500 million, all of which is designated for public school funding over the next five years.
  • Last year the legislature passed a tax increase of $1.2 billion and designated around $850 million of it to go to increased school funding over the next five years.
  • Taken together, these two tax and spending increases will grow school funding over its current level by more than $1.3 billion in total or about $270 million per year for the next five school years. That’s a lot of money to pay for a state with both a contracting economy (one of only three in the country) and a declining population.
  • Nevertheless, the Court declared, in its opinion, that this amount was inadequate. It therefore did not resolve or move on from the case but, instead, kept it to see if the legislature can guess the “correct” number to increase school funding on a third try.
  • Of my 2017 property tax bill, 44% was for K-12 public school funding, which is the largest recipient of my property taxes.
  • As a result of the 2017 tax increase, my income taxes went up 36% this year, though my income did not increase. Add to this the 2018 tax increase ($500 million) and the additional amount the Kansas Supreme Court is demanding from the 2019 legislature.

Just as more government does not equal better government, more funding does not equal better education. Too much of anything is apt to yield fraud, waste, and abuse. – Ben Terrill, Chair, Northwest Johnson County Republicans