Kansas Supreme Court Orders Mediation in School Funding Lawsuit

in NEWS FROM THE ACCESS NETWORK

Acting on a request by Governor Sam Brownback, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the parties to attempt to mediate the issues involved in the school funding lawsuit, Gannon v. State, in which the court ruled for the plaintiffs. The parties have now agreed on a law school dean and an attorney to serve as mediators in the case.

Plaintiffs secured a favorable ruling last month from a three-judge district court panel that held that the state’s cuts to school aid were unconstitutional and would require an estimated $515 million more in funds to meet constitutional compliance. The decision, announced in January, enjoined the state from reducing aid below the amount that legislators established to comply with an earlier court decision guaranteeing all children the right to a suitable education. Kansas Litigation History.

In response, the state filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court as well as a motion to stay the order pending the appeal. The coalition of school districts who served as plaintiffs in the case then filed a cross-appeal, asking the court to issue an even stronger verdict and to order a $1.3 billion increase in aid. Plaintiffs argue that the base per pupil amount should be between $5,723 and $6,365, rather than the $4,492 that the court ordered. Additionally, plaintiffs asked  the court to take a stand on two other issues that the panel declined to address: declaring the state’s actions to be violations of plaintiffs’ substantive due process rights and directing the state to make capital outlay state aid equalization payments that it owes schools from previous years.

The order of mediation issued on March 1st, 2013, will stay the lower court’s decision through the appeals process. If the mediation fails, the Kansas Supreme Court will hear the appeal of the lower court’s ruling on October 8, 2013, and a decision is expected to be issued during the 2014 legislative session.

March 15, 2013

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