Kansas Supreme Court: State’s School Funding Formula Unconstitutional

From the Wichita Eagle:

The Kansas Supreme Court threw Kansas state government into turmoil Thursday, ordering the Legislature to fix unfair and unconstitutional school funding by June 30 deadline or risk shutting down school districts statewide.

““The legislature’s chosen path during the 2016 session will ultimately determine whether Kansas students will be treated fairly and the schoolhouse doors will be open to them in August for the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year,” said the 77-page court ruling in the Gannon school-finance case.

“If the Legislature fails to act, the ruling “will mean no constitutionally valid school finance system exists through which funds for fiscal year 2017 can lawfully be raised, distributed, or spent,” the ruling said.

“The ruling dealt only with the fairness of distribution of funds between school districts, leaving unanswered for now the question of whether the Legislature provides enough money overall to meet its constitutional burden of “suitable” provision for public education.”

Quoted in coverage by the New York Times, Kansas Association of School Boards lobbyist Mark Tallman says, “It really came down to our state Supreme Court saying, once again, that the state has not done enough to address the inequities in our finance system. We hope that the Legislature will respond to the court in a timely fashion.”

The New York Times article notes that Kansas is facing a broader financial crisis widely seen as being caused by Governor Sam Brownback’s push to cut state taxes, which led to a $200 million state budget deficit.

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