Government & Politics

State, school districts face off Tuesday before Kansas Supreme Court over funding

The Kansas City, Kan., school district is among those that sued the state of Kansas over school funding.
The Kansas City, Kan., school district is among those that sued the state of Kansas over school funding.

The fate of Kansas’ new school funding formula is in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the state and the legal team representing the school districts suing over funding will face off Tuesday morning in the Kansas Supreme Court over the constitutionality of a school finance formula signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback last month.

Tuesday’s arguments are the latest stage of the Gannon v. Kansas school finance case that originated in 2010 when four school districts, including Kansas City, Kan., sued the state over education funding.

Back in March, the Kansas Supreme Court found the state had failed to ensure adequate funding for public schools.

Kansas lawmakers passed a new school finance formula before the end of the legislative session in an effort to please the state’s high court in the wake of that ruling.

The new formula adds a net of roughly $488 million to state school funding over two years, though critics of the funding plan have warned it may trigger a special legislative session if the court takes issue with the bill.

In a legal filing made in the lead up to Tuesday’s arguments, the school districts’ legal team argued the increase falls short.

“The lowest estimate of what it costs to constitutionally fund an education to Kansas K-12 public school students is … $893 million over the next two years,” the school districts’ attorneys wrote to the court.

Key Democrats in the Kansas Legislature have said the funding is inadequate, while Republican leaders who helped shepherd the bill to passage have defended the structure of the legislation.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt defended the new formula in a statement last month and said it “is reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed” the court’s standard.

John Robb, an attorney representing the school districts suing the state, told The Star in June that the bill “is just inadequate in the amount of resources it gives to the schools.”

It’s unclear when the Kansas Supreme Court will rule on the new formula following Tuesday morning’s arguments.

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw

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