In the News
The last (albeit hesitating) breath of the Gannon v. Kansas lawsuit was issued Thursday morning. It was anticlimactic considering it confirmed what many of us have been saying for years – that the block grant school funding formula passed in 2015 has resulted in schools being underfunded to unconstitutional levels. The court set a June 30 deadline for passage of a new funding formula. While this decision is the last in a series, the court made clear it will keep an eye on the legislature to ensure we keep our commitment to Kansas students.
After the ruling, Senate President Susan Wagle laid down an ultimatum that she would create a committee to focus on school finance once a budget was passed. K-12 schools make up more than half the budget, and other than the budget, schools are the only constitutionally mandated spending. Creating a budget without knowing the cost of a new school finance formula doesn’t make sense.
In addition to the key points of unconstitutionality and the deadline, the decision also reminded legislators that if adequately funded, the previous formula was constitutional. Legislators and the courts have an ongoing tension over these decisions, where it is the court’s responsibility to determine if a damaged party deserves recourse, but does not hold the purse strings to deliver it. The legislative body, bound by frequent elections and a reluctance to cut programs to fund new ones or raise taxes to cover the costs of both, doesn’t appreciate financial suggestions by unelected judges.
Thus, the court did not provide a specific dollar figure, but mentioned studies and research which do. As a result, it’s looking like it will take a significant infusion of new money over the next few years to bring our schools back to constitutional compliance: