Editorial: School ruling an opportunity
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
At first glance, Monday’s Kansas Supreme Court ruling in the school finance lawsuit might seem to be nothing more than the same-old, same-old in the already 8-year-old lawsuit.
But a closer examination of the ruling shows that the state and the court are closer to agreement — on how much to fund public education and how to distribute that funding — than they’ve ever been. And assuming legislators can come together during the 2019 session to modestly increase school funding to account for inflation, the state can finally put the Gannon v. State of Kansas lawsuit, filed in November 2010, to rest.
Importantly, the Supreme Court now agrees with the state that the plan for determining how much state funding to give each school district is fair.
“As to equity, upon review of this remedial legislation, we conclude that under the present circumstances the State has corrected the Gannon constitutional infirmities and has created no others, contrary to plaintiffs’ current contentions,” the court wrote in Monday’s ruling.
And, though it found inadequate the state’s plan to spend the next five years working up to a $522 million annual increase in school funding, the court ruled the increase the state has in place for the 2018-19 school year is adequate. That buys the Legislature another year to further increase school funding in the coming years.
“This action acknowledges the State’s position: that the 2018 legislature’s efforts and the amount of money added to the financing system for the approaching school year should permit such an extension through the 2019 regular legislative session,” the ruling reads. “And it effectively grants the State’s repeated request to so extend so it can develop a final remediation plan for our review.”
Further, the court didn’t challenge the amounts that the state has suggested; rather, the court ruled that the state erred by not accounting for inflation in some years. That suggests that the state is within a few percentage points of what the court finds adequate.
Of course, it would be significantly simpler if the court would simply suggest a funding amount that it deems adequate, which, to the frustration of many, the court has refused to do throughout this process.
Still, the court’s message Monday to the state was crystal clear: You’re very close. Legislators will have the opportunity during the 2019 session to resolve the Gannon case for seemingly far less than many predicted. They must seize that opportunity.