Update 3: On March 2 2017 the Supreme Court of the State of Kansas handed down its decision regarding the ‘adequacy’ of education financing in Kansas. The Court found that the state education financing system does not meet the adequacy requirements of the Kansas Constitution. In reaching this decision, the Court noted that the state was failing to provide approximately one-fourth of public school students, particularly minority students, with basic skills in reading and math. The Court set June 30 2017 as the deadline by which the legislature must enact a financing system that meets the constitutional standards of adequacy. For further information, see this news post from the National Education Access Network.
Read the Kansas Supreme Court decision of March 2 2017, here.
Update 2: On June 27 2016 after a special session in the Kansas Legislature, the Governor of Kansas signed a bill that restored $38 million in funding to the Kansas public education system. The Court was satisfied that the new law satisfied its previous three court orders and therefore the equity requirements of the Kansas Constitution. The Court will now turn its attention to the 'adequacy' of education financing in Kansas - the other, more substantial aspect of this case. For further information, see this article in the Shawnee Dispatch.
Update 1: the Court has rejected the Kansas legislature's attempt to comply with its order and has given the Legislature until 30 June 2016 'to craft a constitutionally suitable solution and minimise the threat of disruptions in funding for education.'
On February 11 2016, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in Gannon v. Kansas that the state legislature had failed to cure inequities between rich and poor school districts, and was therefore in violation of the Kansas Constitution.
The Kansas Constitution has an education provision which contains ‘equity’ and ‘adequacy’ requirements with regard to how public schools are financed. The Court reaffirmed that Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, 'necessitates that the legislature provide enough funds to ensure public school students receive a constitutionally adequate education and that the funds' distribution does not result in unreasonable wealth-based disparities among districts.'
The decision was based on the failure of the legislature to comply with the equity component of Article 6.
The ruling is part of a longstanding battle over public education in Kansas which began in 2005 with a case that resulted in an increase of funding; funding that was eventually pulled during the financial crisis.
In 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the findings of a panel following the original Gannon case of 2010 which argued that some school districts were underfunded. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the legislature had a constitutional duty to equitably fund school districts. Legislators were ordered to find a way to ensure that the funding system cure wealth-based disparities across school districts, which it did with the passage of a bill to remedy the situation.
However, in 2015 a new 'block grant' formula was introduced which reduced the amount of funding going to poorer districts. The Court ruled that the new funding formula as well as the amended formula for 2016 and 2017 did not comply with the 2014 Court Order to cure wealth-based disparities (the Court reasoned that the new formula would actually exacerbated wealth disparities) in accordance with the equity requirement of Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution.
The legislature has been given until June 30, 2016 to find a way to constitutionally (ie equitably) fund schools or risk the closing of public schools.
A similar decision had been previously made by the Texas Supreme Court in 1991. In that instance the legislature complied with the Court’s order before the deadline.
For more information on equity and adequacy requirements of US state constitutions as a basis for litigation, read Michael Rebell’s blog: Litigating the Right to Education in the US.
Read the Kansas Supreme Court decision, here.
Read our case summary, here.