State funding for education is adequate, court rules

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled recently that state funding for education is adequate, it has been reported.

The Supreme Court ruled that in the case, Luke Gannon versus the state of Kansas, the state has shown that the 2019 Legislature’s scheduled base aid increases are in “substantial compliance” with the court’s June 25, 2018, mandate. 

This is the court’s seventh decision in the Gannon litigation.

In 2018, the court had held that despite legislation enacted in 2017 and 2018, the state still had not met its burden of complying with the adequacy requirements of an article in the constitution of the people of Kansas.  

That section obligates the State Legislature to “make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”

But even though the state had not met its burden, the court acknowledged in 2018 that the state had expressed an intent to comply with the education adequacy threshold discussed in a 2006 school finance case, Montoy v. State. 

In what is referred to as its “Montoy safe harbor” plan, the state reasoned that if it returned to the basic funding formula approved in Montoy for school year 2009-10 and fully funded that formula —including accounting for years of inflation — it would again reach a constitutionally adequate funding level.

And it did.

After careful analysis, the 2018 court accepted the state’s Montoy safe harbor approach. But it held that to satisfactorily address the remaining concerns with adequacy, the state needed to make timely financial adjustments in response to two specific inflation problems. 

The court stayed the issuance of the mandate more than one year —until June 30, 2019.

In response, the 2019 State Legislature passed House Substitute for Senate Bill 16 in an effort to cover inflation with additional funding and thus complete its Montoy safe harbor remediation plan. 

On April 6, 2019, Gov. Laura Kelly signed S.B. 16 into law. The court then held that through S.B. 16’s additional funding of the state’s safe harbor plan — specifically the annual increases to base aid in the amount of about $90 million per year for four years — the state has substantially complied with the court’s 2018 mandate. 

Although holding that S.B. 16’s schedule for additional funding substantially complies with the mandate, the court retains jurisdiction to ensure continued implementation of the plan.

It would be nice if this was the end of the state aid for public school funding dilemma in our state. 

But that would be wishful thinking. We need the Kansas Supreme Court to stay involved in this public school funding process to ensure fair and adequate public school funding for all K-12 grades in the state.

Taking away the right of Kansans to seek the Supreme Court’s guidance on fair and adequate K-12 funding would surely signal the end of public schools in rural areas of the state.

By the same token, state legislators must resist their urges to provide some state funding for private and parochial  schools and home schools.

The state taxpayers’ respnsibility to fairly and adequately fund schools starts and stops with K-12 public schools. Period.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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