Judges Require Kansas to Provide Adequate School Funding
I know, we’re not in Kansas (most of us), but since I’ve written in the past about legal battles over adequate school funding, I just wanted to add this latest chapter in the larger story. On January 11, Brad Cooper of the Kansas City Star reported:
A panel of state judges ruled Friday that funding of Kansas schools doesn’t pass constitutional muster, suggesting a price tag that could approach $500 million more for the state.
Three judges found that since 2009, the Legislature — in concert with Kansas Govs. Mark Parkinson and Sam Brownback — cut school spending in violation of the constitution.
In their 250-page opinion, the Shawnee County District Court judges called the education cuts “an obvious and continuing pattern of disregard of constitutional funding.”
Parents and school districts had argued the state hasn’t lived up to its promises to increase school funding under a 2005 order by the Kansas Supreme Court. The result, they argued, damaged student achievement.
“It’s a great victory for all of the kids of Kansas,” said Wichita lawyer Alan Rupe, who represented a coalition of 54 Kansas school districts in the lawsuit. “This opinion underscores what that commitment should be for the future.”
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court, while other critics derided the ruling as an overreach by the court.
There are similar cases around the country, some recently decided and many still in state courts. A little over a year ago, I wrote in detail about the plaintiffs’ success in Lobato v. Colorado, proving to a judge that systematic underfunding has a demonstrable negative effect that violates the education provisions in the Colorado state constitution. The state of Colorado is appealing that ruling.
There’s one disheartening part of these stories, though. See, it was less than a decade ago that the Kansas Supreme Court reached a similar ruling, and attempted to compel the state to improve school funding. So now we have another ruling, and an upcoming appeal, and who knows how long the state will get away with neglecting its students and schools. The same issue has come up in the state of Washington as well – the court can deliver a ruling, but only the legislatures can pass a budget. Will this end up being another short-lived victory, undercut by a legislature that can’t really be held accountable for compliance?