KANSAS LEGISLATURE MEETS COURT’S COMPLIANCE DEADLINE

in Kansas, NEWS FROM THE ACCESS NETWORK

Responding to the state Supreme Court’s firm insistence that the state comply with the June 30, 2016 deadline it had established for providing additional funding to low-wealth school districts in Gannon v. State, the Kansas legislature, meeting in special session, passed a bill that restored $38 million in funding for the affected districts. The bill was signed by the governor on June 27. A day later, the Supreme Court issued a ruling stating that this legislation satisfied the outstanding equity issues in the case.

The State Supreme Court had made clear that if the compliance deadline had not been met, it would have prohibited any further spending on public education throughout the state as of June 30. This would have meant that all summer school programs would have been shut down, and that if the court’s order still was not obeyed, schools statewide could not open for the new term in September. Many school districts had feared a cessation of funding for the summer would have required them to close down plants and equipment and computers, an action which would have imperiled many important data files and software programs. The legislative action avoided this constitutional confrontation.

The Court’s order also reminded the parties that it had not yet ruled on the lower court’s recommendations regarding outstanding adequacy issues, and that it would set a date in the future for a hearing on this matter. The lower court had held that the state’s substantial cuts in over-all funding for education over the past six years were unconstitutional and that to provide a constitutionally adequate level of funding would require the legislature to increase funding for all districts through formula increases that would likely total hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

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