Over the next few months, the Kansas legislature will determine the future of the state’s public schools. Reduced funding for public schools in Kan. has resulted in lawsuits against the state alleging misconduct within the legislature and its handling of education funding.
Financial cuts in Kan. began in 2009 as a result of the recession. Kan.’s legislators responded to declining state revenue by withdrawing the $1 billion increase in education funding that was approved in 2006. Education funding in Kan. was cut by a total of 16.5 percent by Brownback and the Kan. legislature.
In 2010, Rev. Jeff Gannon along with 63 other districts filed a lawsuit against the state of Kan. The lawsuit claimed that education cuts violated a section in the state’s constitution that requires the state to provide “suitable provision of finance” for its public schools. A previous lawsuit in 2001, Montoy v. the State of Kansas, contended that a provision in the Kan. constitution states a minimum requirement of funding for public education. Any measure decreasing education funding was violating the constitution. The Supreme Court of Kansas ruled in favor of the plaintiff and demanded that the Kan. legislature restore the minimum requirement of funding to schools. However, the education cuts approved in 2009 gave rise to Gannon v. the State of Kansas. Lower courts decided in favor of Gannon, but appeals caused the case to be sent the Supreme Court of Kansas.
While the case was still being decided, Brownback approved more than $1.1 million in tax cuts to businesses and individuals in early 2011. He promised to decrease taxes in order to influence more people and businesses to settle in Kan. In the months after the tax cuts, the revenue instead decreased. The Kan. legislature began searching for a solution. The ultimate decision was to further decrease funding for education, leaving Kan. $400 million underfunded.
In Jan. 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Kan. must comply with the state required minimum for funding schools, requiring the cost per-student in Kan. to be raised from $3,383 to the minimum standard of $4,492.
“The judges called the school funding cut ‘destructive of our children’s future,’” said David Sciarra and Wade Henderson of the “New York Times.”
Brownback and the state appealed the ruling, but in 2015, the Supreme Court again decided to require the state to comply with the state’s constitutional standards. The state was forced to build a plan for public education or face a shut down of the state’s legislature. Despite the court’s latter ruling, the Kan. legislature proposed another cut of $13 million dollars to the state’s educational funding in June 2016. The Supreme Court’s ultimatum restored the funding and formed a plan to fund public schools for the 2017 fiscal year. The plan has yet to be accepted by the entirety of the Kansas House of Representatives and Senate. With both new representatives and senators taking office in Jan. 2017, the fate of Kan. public schools is still unclear.