The attorney general urged Kansas’ highest court Friday to approve a new formula for allocating state funding to public schools and the accompanying $285 million aid package developed by lawmakers in a bid to align the system with the Kansas Constitution.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a written notice the bill adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback met directives articulated by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The attorney general requested the Supreme Court complete judicial review of the law by June 30 or extend a deadline for complying with the court’s previous orders.
House and Senate members during the 2017 session passed a bill raising state investment in K-12 schools by $285 million over two years. Much of the cash was earmarked for the 25 percent of the state’s 450,000 students performing poorly in math and reading.
On Friday, the Supreme Court notified lawyers involved in Gannon v. State of Kansas a conference was scheduled for Monday to discuss deadlines and identify “major issues arising” from Senate Bill 19. That meeting was expected to culminate in a schedule for briefs or arguments on the K-12 finance law.
Alan Rupe, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the state had the burden to prove the law conformed to the education article in the state constitution.
In his opinion, it didn’t.
“The Legislature needs to dig deeper into its pocket book and reach higher with its goals in order not to sacrifice another generation of Kansas kids to an inadequately funded school system,” Rupe said. “While we appreciate the effort of the Kansas Legislature, the simple fact is, it is not enough.”
Schmidt, the attorney general, said in a court filing the revised education law “complies with this court’s opinion” issued in March. The law is “reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed” standards set by the court, Schmidt said.
The three-judge Shawnee County trial court concluded a constitutional fix could require $824 million in new aid to schools, Rupe said. The Kansas State Board of Education submitted a request to the Legislature for funding equal to $893 million over two years.
In 2010, school districts in Dodge City, Hutchinson, Kansas City, Kan., Wichita filed suit alleging Kansas failed to meet its duty to adequately and equitably fund schools statewide.
Three years ago, the Supreme Court determined the state wasn’t adhering to constitutional requirements in terms of equitable support of education. The 2014 Legislature responded by adding $130 million to budgets of the 286 school districts. Woven into that bill were clauses eliminating the tenure system for public school educators and creating a tax-credit program for corporate donors to private-school scholarships.
Following oral arguments before the Supreme Court, the justices issued a decision in March that said overall funding had to increase to meet adequacy provisions of Article 6 in the state constitution.
Justices concentrated on the one-fourth of students with deficits in reading and math, and noted many in that category were low-income and minority students. The court affirmed the benchmark would be “Rose” standards drawn from a Kentucky education lawsuit.
Contact reporter Tim Carpenter at (785) 393-2621 or @TimVCarpenter on Twitter.