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Judges Require Kansas to Provide Adequate School Funding

January 20, 2013

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?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2013 3:06 pm

    Hi David,
    I’m here in KS and while we jumping for joy over the decision…it will be years before anything happens. As soon as the court ruled against the state, the governor re-committed to changing the way judges are appointed in our state. He would control how they take the bench instead of being elected.

    Any guesses why? Probably because it ticks him off that he can’t bully the courts the way he’s doing everything else here in the state.
    We’ve watched everything be stripped out of the state budget because our crazy governor is set on reducing the state income tax to zero. He wants to be competitive with Texas????? So whatever has to be cut from the state budget to make that happen is being slashed, cut, consolidated and eliminated.

    Now he’s announced he tired of waiting for schools to teach kids to read (I’m not sure what he thinks we’ve been doing for years and years). So he’s going to mandate reading levels for 4th graders. If they don’t meet that level, they’re automatically retained. ?????? exceptions (SPED, ELL???) nope. You draw your own conclusions.

    We deserve what happens to us. The nuts in the most conservative parts of the state elected this guy, so we’re stuck until we can vote him out of office. I just have to say that if people don’t rise up and become active, vote….we’ll see our educational system along with all the social support systems in our state, blown to smithereens.


  1. Judges Require Kansas to Provide Adequate School Funding | Teacher Leadership Weekly |
  2. Education Policy via Litigation | InterACT

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