Sunday, July 1, 2018

Kansas Supreme Court says in School Funding Equity is Adequate, but Still Falls Short

Kansas Old Supreme Court Room.
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh
Topeka, KS  - The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Monday that the State's spending on public schools remains inadequate despite an increase approved earlier this year, but gave the state another year to come up with more funding. This is the third decision in two years from the High Court.  In its decision, the high court rejected arguments from the state that a new law phasing in a $548 million increase in funding over five years is enough to provide a "suitable" education for every child as specified in the state constitution.  The court did, however, delayed its mandate until June 30, 2019, to address the issue. While the court found the equity to be enough, the court was critical of the methods the legislature used for accounting for inflation when determining how much more money was needed for schools. According to the Justices,  the legislation neglected to account for inflation consistently over the course of the five-year plan.
In statements to the Gazette, several candidates responded to the court's decision:

Greg Orman, Independent Candidate for Governor said that the,

"Kansas Supreme Court decision acknowledges  the legislature’s efforts to adequately and equitably fund Kansas schools, but the legislature’s work remains incomplete. As governor, I will work with the courts and legislators on both sides of the aisle to remedy the remaining adequacy concerns.

Schools are the economic engine of our state, and I want every student, regardless of where they come from or which school they attend , to receive the best education Kansas can pro vide . Rest assured this issue will be a top priority in my administration." 

Carl Brewer, one of the Democratic Candidates for Governor said,
"It's time for Kansas to prioritize our children and their future - our future. To ensure every child gets a fair and adequate education is just the starting point. We need more than just lip service from career Topeka politicians. We need leaders who will stand up to those whose goals result in harming the quality of public schools across our state."
Jim Barnett, one of the Republican candidates for Governor said,
“I think the Court was correct in approving the funding bill’s amount if subject to
inflation. Without that provison, the state fails to meet its constitutional
mandate to provide for a suitable education in our state. The 2018 legislation merely
restored funding levels that last were approved as adequate 10 or more years ago.
Instead of increasing as inflation increased, school funding levels remained too low
as shown by every study commissioned during the period, including two by the
legislature itself.
The school funding problem has existed for many years, and was only exacerbated
when the Brownback/Colyer failed tax experiment of 2012 drove Kansas further into
critical budget deficits, leaving legislators no way to meet their constitutional mandate
to adequately educate our youngest citizens.The time for judicial disparaging has passed. We need a governor who will lead us beyond in-fighting over school funding that has been the hallmark of the governor’s office under Brownback and Colyer .”
Kris Kobach, Republican candidate for Governor and current Secretary of State said,
"The business of funding schools belongs with the representatives of the people--not seven, unelected judges," Kobach said. "The Kansas Supreme Court's Gannon decision today illustrates how the Court is now micromanaging every dollar spent on education even down to calculating adjustments for inflation."
Jeff Colyer, the current Republican Governor, running for his first full-term said, 
 “When I became Governor earlier this year, I outlined my priorities for a school finance plan. Specifically, one that would keep our schools open, get more money into the classroom and improve student outcomes without raising taxes. And we got it done.     As a doctor, I know it is important to see continuous improvement.  We will maintain a sharp focus on sending dollars to the classroom without raising taxes.     I look forward to building upon the work we did together this year to address the remaining issues identified in the ruling.” 
The final statement came from a Republican candidate for the Second Congressional District. State Senator Steve Fitzgerald said,
"Much will be said about the Kansas Supreme Court decision just handed down. What needs to be said is that the Court continues to overstep its boundaries. There needs to be a constitutional amendment making clear that the Court cannot dictate how much of your wealth to take for any purpose. It can decide if the money is equitably distributed."

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