Kansas Schools Stay Open, Just in Time

     TOPEKA (CN) — It appears that the six-year struggle between the Kansas Supreme Court and its Legislature over “education equity” is coming to an end, as the court approved new distribution mechanisms signed into law last week.
     Legislators convened for a special session this month to craft a substitute for House Bill 2001, in an eleventh-hour attempt to keep Kansas schools open in the new school year.
     Kansas schools’ fiscal year begins on July 1.
     The plaintiffs and the state attorney general filed a joint stipulation on Monday, asking the court to approve Sub HB 2001, and on Tuesday the court agreed, though it retained jurisdiction and said it would schedule oral arguments to address the adequacy of the legislation.
     In its previous ruling, on May 27, the supreme court found that the Legislature still “had not cured the inequities” in its school funding.
     The case is Luke Gannon et al. v. State of Kansas.
     Previous attempts by the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback did not pass constitutional muster. The court found the state’s “wealth-based” equalization aid formula would have caused inequities that disproportionately affect low-income school districts. In fact, the court found that it have created “intolerable, and simply unfair, wealth-based disparities among the districts” with poorer areas being left farther behind.
     Brownback in 2012 signed into law one of the biggest budget cuts in Kansas history, saying it would bring businesses to the state and make the economy boom. It didn’t and the state has faced continuing budget crises.
     While the disparity in the school funding case was less than 1 percent of the school budget, a figure much publicized by Brownback, the new calculation will send an additional $38 million to poorer districts during the 2016-17 school year.
     HB 2001 revived formulas that previously had been approved as constitutional by the court.
     “The equity issues on appeal are presently resolved,” Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss wrote in the 3-page order. “In short, the Legislature has currently satisfied the court’s order in Gannon I, Gannon II, and Gannon III regarding equity. Therefore, no judicial remedy is necessary at this time.”
     While both sides prepare for the as-yet unscheduled oral arguments, they must address a lower court ruling that found last year that state aid to school should be increased by $548 million.

%d bloggers like this: