Court Holds Low Kansas School Funding Unconstitutional, Lawmakers Respond By Attacking Constitution
Just weeks after a three judge panel unanimously ruled the Kansas legislature was failing to meet its constitutionally defined responsibility to suitably fund the state’s education needs, conservative Kansas legislators responded with a proposal to limit judicial oversight of education funding. The January ruling ordered the legislature to raise education funding around $400 million to return the state’s schools to reasonable standards and called out the hypocrisy of cuts given other “priorities” pursued by the legislature at the same time:
The court said it was “illogical” for the state to argue that it could not adequately fund schools at the same time it slashed income taxes.
The ruling is the latest in a series of court victories for a group of public school districts, parents and students in Kansas who have demanded for years that the state provide more money for education.
A funding plan was devised for Kansas in 2006 through a settlement of a prior lawsuit but the groups filed suit again in 2010 when the state made an estimated $300 million in funding cuts. The state made even more cuts in 2011. There have been $511 million in cuts to the base funding between fiscal year 2009 and fiscal 2012.”
Rather than accept the decision and provide Kansan students with adequate funding, last week conservative legislators introduced a constitutional amendments intended to reduce judicial influence and Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) appealed the ruling.
The large conservative majorities in both chambers of the Kansas legislature, have pursued an aggressive agenda under Governor Sam Brownback, including gutting arts funding, and attempting to end income taxes.
Kansas is not alone in constitutionally requiring education funding standards, with many other states including New Jersey and Washington fighting similar battles over education funding in recent years. Just yesterday, a District Judge ruled Texas’s school-finance system unconstitutional due to funding disparities between richer and poorer districts.
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