The Kansas Legislature has taken bold action to reform the state’s school funding system and a small number of school districts shouldn’t be allowed to second-guess its judgment, according to a court brief.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, in a state Supreme Court brief this week, said the governor and Legislature had revised the state’s funding formula and provided $135 million in additional funds to school districts, all to meet financing obligations under the Kansas Constitution.
In the school funding case called Gannon v. Kansas, now before the state Supreme Court, four school districts, including Kansas City, Kan., claimed the state has not adequately and equitably funded schools as required by the Kansas Constitution.
With overwhelming evidence that students are excelling, Schmidt said in the brief filed Monday, the Legislature reasonably concluded it had made suitable provision for financing education.
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“Its bold and ongoing actions toward reforming the school funding system are reasonably calculated to ensure continued compliance,” the brief said.
The court should give “substantial deference” to the funding decisions by the governor and Legislature, it said.
The Supreme Court is considering the Gannon case in two phases. Oral arguments in the “equity” portion were heard earlier this month.
The attorney general’s brief this week was part of the “adequacy” portion. The school districts’ response is due in January, with the second phase of oral arguments still to be scheduled.
The Legislature this year did away with a per-pupil school finance formula and replaced it with block grants for two years until a new formula could be written.
The school districts alleged that the state’s block grants violated the constitution, and in June a three-judge district court panel agreed. The panel ordered the state to restore the funds under the earlier formula. The state appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.
A Supreme Court decision in favor of the districts next year could result in millions more in state funding.