Issuing its sixth decision since 2016 in Gannon v. State, the Kansas Supreme Court held in a per curriam decision issued last week that the adequacy increase adopted by the legislature in response to the Court’s 2017 decision would meet constitutional requirements provided that adequate inflation adjustments were made in the calculations. The ruling avoids a threatened shut-down of the entire state school system for non-compliance with constitutional requirements.
The Gannon case was brought by a coalition of school districts to challenge the state’s failure in the wake of the 2008 recession to fully fund the formula that the Kansas Supreme Court had upheld in the 2006 settlement in the prior case of Montoy v. State. In essence, new legislation adopted by the state will reimburse school districts over a five year period for the amounts of shortfall they have experienced from the Montoy-approved-amounts over a five year phase-in period. The Court’s current ruling accepts the state’s methodology, provided that adequate adjustments are made for inflationary increases both in calculating the basic amount owed to the districts ( the state’s calculation was apparently based on the 2016-2017 school year, and did appear to calculate inflation for SY 2017-18 and SY 2018-19) and for inflation that will take place during each of the following four years of the phase-in period.
In accepting the state’s calculation, the Court ignored higher calculations of current adequacy needs that an expert hired by the state had recommended. Plaintiffs state that the inflation adjustments will amount to approximately $97 million per year; the state’s attorneys put the estimate at $50-60 million per year.
The Court has retained jurisdiction to ensure that the State does enact these adjustments by June 20, 2019.