Archive for Thursday, March 2, 2017

Unanimous decision by Kansas Supreme Court: School financing system does not meet constitutional requirements

School district attorney Alan Rupe, left, presents his case in a school funding case at the Kansas Supreme Court Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Topeka, Kan. The hearing stems from a 2010 lawsuit brought by four school districts contending schools are underfunded by the state. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

School district attorney Alan Rupe, left, presents his case in a school funding case at the Kansas Supreme Court Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Topeka, Kan. The hearing stems from a 2010 lawsuit brought by four school districts contending schools are underfunded by the state. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

March 2, 2017, 8:55 a.m. Updated March 2, 2017, 1:08 p.m.


TOPEKA —  The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday declared that funding for public schools in the state is unconstitutionally low, and it gave the Legislature until June 30 to come up with a response, setting up another possibility that it could order the closing of public schools if lawmakers fail to come up with a satisfactory solution.

The court did not give lawmakers specific instructions about how much more funding would be needed. But the Kansas State Department of Education has said that its budget request for the next two years was designed around meeting standards set out in an earlier Supreme Court ruling, and that request seeks at least $841 million in additional funding over the next two years.

The decision came during the Kansas Legislature’s weeklong recess. Legislators will return Monday for the second phase of the 2017 session, with the issue of school funding now at the top of their agenda.

Alan Rupe, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said immediately after the decision was released that he believes the Legislature will act quickly.

“Voters did not retain the conservative legislators linked to Governor (Sam) Brownback, and instead replaced them with more moderate candidates,” he said. “Many Kansans associate Governor Brownback’s tax cuts with the state’s inability to fund basic state programs and agencies, as well as education. The new, more moderate Legislature has already suggested that it will repeal some of the tax cuts put into place by Governor Brownback. This would go a long way in not only allowing Kansas to address the inadequacies in education funding, but also in addressing the overwhelming budget deficit that Kansas is currently facing. “

In its 83-page decision, the court said standardized test scores in reading and math, both before and since the trial, showed that Kansas is not providing an adequate education to roughly one-fourth of all students and that certain minority groups are being harmed the most.

Based on the most recent test scores, the court said, nearly half of the state’s African-American students and more than one-third of all Hispanic students are not proficient in reading.

“We acknowledge that some subgroups can have their own special challenges to achievement,” the court said. “However, their particular hurdles do not satisfactorily explain why today nearly one-fourth of all Kansas students are not proficient in reading.”

The case, Gannon v. Kansas, was filed in 2010, at the end of Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson’s administration. It alleged that cuts in public school funding made in the wake of the Great Recession starting in 2009 were unconstitutional and violated the standards of adequate funding that were set out in an earlier school finance case.

Plaintiffs in the Gannon case, which included the Wichita, Dodge City, Hutchinson and Kansas City, Kan., school districts, had asked the court to order the Legislature to increase funding upwards of $550 million a year.

That claim was based on Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, which says, “The Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”

The state had argued that school funding is a matter for the Legislature to decide as part of its authority to set the entire state budget and that courts should not try to second-guess the Legislature.

In 2014, the court ruled that parts of the school funding plan at the time did not treat all districts equitably, and it ordered changes to certain portions of the funding plan. But it sent the question of overall adequacy of funding back to a three-judge district court panel for reconsideration.

In that decision, the court reversed earlier decisions that said the adequacy of funding should be based on the actual cost of providing services. Instead, it said adequacy should be judged based on a set of educational outcomes, known as the “Rose standards,” which define the kinds of knowledge and skills a student needs to be successful in life after graduating from high school.

After another trial, the three-judge panel in 2015 reaffirmed its earlier decision, noting the large number of students in Kansas who were failing to meet state proficiency standards on reading and math tests.

And the court noted in its decision Thursday that as of the 2015-2016 school year, there were 33,000 Hispanic students and 15,000 black students performing below grade level in at least one of those subjects, enough students to fill “every school district in every county with an eastern boundary beginning west of Salina.”

In 2015, though, Kansas lawmakers repealed the school funding formula that had been in place since the early 1990s and replaced it with a system of block grants for the next two years. That effectively froze funding in place while giving lawmakers two years to come up with another formula.

But lawmakers so far have not come up with a new formula, and the block grant statute is set to expire on June 30.

The Kansas House has appointed a special committee this year to focus on writing a new formula. One of the members of that panel is newly elected Rep. Jim Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie, a former school superintendent who taught school finance to doctoral students at Baker University.

“It will be a real balancing act, but I think it could be addressed,” he said. “It’s not only test scores we need to look at. There are other criteria too. The Rose standards are going to be difficult to write a formula around, in my opinion.”

The court gave no specific instructions about how to fix the current funding system. But it warned that “if by June 30, 2017, the State has not satisfactorily demonstrated that any K-12 public education financing system the legislature enacts is capable of meeting the adequacy requirements of Article 6, then a lifting of the stay of today’s mandate will mean that the state’s education financing system is unconstitutionally invalid and therefore void.”

In an earlier school finance case in 2005, the court allowed the Legislature to pass a multiyear funding plan that phased in substantial increases over three years.

Rupe, however, said the Gannon case was filed because lawmakers failed to make good on that plan in the third year.

“I’m going to be quoting Ronald Reagan all over the place and tell the court, if it’s a multiyear plan, we need to trust and verify, and not dismiss the case so that we can make certain that the Legislature doesn’t all of a sudden change, with other folks’ return to the days of yesteryear and have substantial cuts,” he said.

Justices Carol Beier and Caleb Stegall, the newest member of the court, recused themselves from the case. Stegall had been Brownback’s chief counsel while the case was being litigated. Beier did not give a reason for her recusal.

In their places, senior Judges Michael Malone, of Lawrence, and David Stutzman, of Manhattan, were assigned to hear the case.


Ralph Reed 1 year, 1 month ago

We knew this.

Why did The Guv waste money the state does not have?


Greg Cooper 1 year, 1 month ago

Cue the Bobs and Justin, our non-resident Bob, in 3,2,1......

Alex Landazuri 1 year, 1 month ago

let me help out here....liberal bad, trump good, blah blah blah

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 1 month ago

Wow!! No room left here for me.............

But.......of course you know (or should know!!) ......the governor DOES NOT WANT AN EDUCATED ELECTORATE!!.

Educated people do not vote for fools, idiots, alt-right "conservatives" or any other such political icons!

Your turn. Bob..........(let me help.........) LIBERAL, LIBERAL,LIBERAL!!!!!!!!)

Bob Reinsch 1 year, 1 month ago

The local, resident Bob with kids in Kansas public schools is pleased with this decision. (Educated in Kansas public schools and universities, too). It's time for our governor to stop thinking like a deadbeat dad and manage his responsibility to the kids of out state.

Myron Alford 1 year, 1 month ago

Spending money for education is the best investment the state can make, it is our responsibility to make make sure our local school districts make good use of that money. The courts have the constitutional mandate to verify that the legislature and governor are fulfilling their mandate to adequately fund schools. If they feel that mandate is no longer necessary they should draft and submit a constitutional amendment as to the level of funding they think is appropriate.

Theodore Calvin 1 year, 1 month ago

But doing so won't accomplish their goal of parading the judiciary around as activists so the low-information, one-issue voters think it was all on the supreme court.

Bob Summers 1 year, 1 month ago

If spending more money makes kids smart, why can't American kids, that have the most money in the world spent on them, break the top twenty worldwide in math, science and reading proficiencies?

Theodore Calvin 1 year, 1 month ago

So spending less will accomplish that? Bob, where do you suggest we cut in schools? You have no idea. You speak in platitudes. Name me 3 budgetary items in the Kansas School Budget where we can cut, the amount, and how you would go about implementing those cuts. Please also calculate a percent to total of budget your items actually cut out, so we can see if what you suggest is even a drop in the bucket. Until you can, please refrain from talking on this issue.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 1 month ago

Oh Theodore, none of the Bobs, will give you any kind of solutions, information, research, nada. Well maybe if it comes from FOX or Britefart. You are asking too much of them. They are just negative nellies.

Theodore Calvin 1 year, 1 month ago

I'll help you Bob. See the links for our own state legislature's post audits of school districts.

Our own government says KS schools are running pretty well. Most POTENTIAL savings are borne from school consolidation, not filling open positions, reducing transportation, reducing extra-curricular activities, and pooling school food resources (purchasing, cooking, etc). The most savings I found was 8% of a districts total budget (Prairie Hills District, and this was due to closing/consolidating the Wetmore school. Trabert keeps saying "same for less," but this isn't that.

Theodore Calvin 1 year, 1 month ago

Are you also willing to admit we test and educate everyone, while many of the countries "ahead" of us only educate the elite? Can we talk apples to apples, instead of your apple to prune comparison?

Greg Cooper 1 year, 1 month ago

Add to that special needs, and other programs not touched by other nations' schools. A to a, again, not a to other fruit.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 1 month ago

Bob..............Source of your rant please??

Bob Forer 1 year, 1 month ago

looks like a few pigs won't be feeding at the tax cut trough. some of them might have to get a job instead of mooching off their wife.

John Brazelton 1 year, 1 month ago

You can spend tons of money per student (look at Washington DC), but you can't overcome low IQs and lack of incentive, both by the students and their parents. Look at Asian parents, a majority demand that their children study hard and make good grades and they get results. To vast majority of Kansans, school achievement is not that important.

Armen Kurdian 1 year, 1 month ago

I'll take KS public education on a cut budget over CA public education on a fat budget any day of the week.

Shawn Boultinghouse 1 year, 1 month ago

I will admit I don't know what the magic number would be, but you don't always get what you pay for. Sometimes you can actually pay less and get more. It really comes down to the commitment of the administrators, teachers, parents and students. If any one of them are not committed to success, a lot of the students will graduate without the knowledge to succeed in life. I never thought I would ever need typing or bookkeeping skills in my adult life, but I'm glad I took both in High School. Bottom line is if the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled we need to spend more on education, that is what we will have to do.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 1 month ago

Commitment is all you have with teachers. They go into debt to get their degree and license, and they have to continue their education to keep their license. Yet, many don't earn enough to buy a house, and they are not treated like the professionals they are. Many carry on, because they care about their students, and know the importance of education.

By the way, kids learning typing skills earlier and earlier, because they need to have computer skills. I know there are still some adults who can't get the job they want or can't advance, because their computer skills are lacking. Understanding bookkeeping is important too, but knowing how to use modern bookkeeping software is equally as important.

I remember when I had typing in high school. We mostly had manual typewriters, but the school was slowing replacing them with electric typewriters, so there were about 2 rows of them. It was first come, first serve. Everyone rushed to the classroom to try and get one of the electric typewriters. Times have changed a lot since then.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

=== $600 Million should do it for openers .... it is just Kansas conservatives are like all other conservatives. They like stonewalling and misconstruing the facts .....

America has plenty of choices for schools: Conservatives lead America astray pretending the USA does not have school choice. Then conservatives will increase taxes to support their lies and misinformation.

If anyone has children they know there are many education choices available in the USA. For more than 100 years choices have been available.

For example:

Public schools

Private Schools

Parochial Schools

Waldorf Schools

Home Schools

Music Schools

Dance Schools

Tutors are available

All have financial means by which to assist aka scholarships,grants and such.

This school choice charter school crap is another smoke and screen for the Privatization Ponzi Scheme cooked up by fundamentalist and libertarian politicians .

That's right the ones who say they despise taxes want to steal tax dollar supported programs to divert those taxes into their private bank accounts.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

A sound and well financed public education system has been known to be an important hefty equation into mantaining a strong local economy,

Commenting has been disabled for this item.