Late last month, a three-judge state court panel issued a temporary restraining order that struck down key provisions of the state’s new school funding formula , holding that the new system was unconstitutional. The statutory changes had been initiated by Gov. Sam Brownback to help balance his budget by reducing school outlays by about $54 million. These cuts primarily affected low wealth school districts.
The three-judge panel ruled that the new K-12 funding system—which dispensed with the per-pupil formula in favor of a block-grant mechanism —–violates the state constitution “both in regard to its adequacy of funding and in its change of, and in its embedding of, inequities in the provision of capital outlay state aid and supplemental general state aid.” This year’s statutory changes essentially undid the equity reforms that the legislature had adopted last year in response to a ruling of the state Supreme Court. Still pending before the Supreme Court is the three-judge panel’s determination that the entire system for funding public education is inadequate, violates the state constitution and shortchanges students by approximately $550 million per year. That ruling was made in response to a remand to the panel to re-consider, under the specific “Rose” standards, its earlier determination that the system was inadequate and unconstitutional.
On July 2, 2015, the Kansas Supreme Court stayed the panel’s order but, at the same time, it said it would set an “expedited” schedule for hearing the case.