Almost a decade of legal fighting is near the end after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Kansas Legislature had met the requirements for adequate and equitable school funding.
The Kansas Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the Kansas Legislature has inadequately funded public schools since several school districts and parents first filed the Gannon v. Kansas lawsuit in 2010.
Lawmakers approved a $90 million increase to school funding in April to comply with the court order in the Gannon case. In the past, the court said lawmakers did not adjust for inflation, and the money approved this year is a response to the concerns.
The court also said in the response they will retain jurisdiction on the case to ensure the funding is implemented.
Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said he agrees with the court’s decision that the $90 million is adequate.
“It’s what I voted on, I believed it was enough and that’s what we agreed to in a bipartisan way,” he said.
Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, said she was pleased with the ruling.
“I’m very thrilled that we’ve been able to put this into perspective,” she said. “This increase in funding is definitely needed.”
Rep. Tom Phillips, R-Manhattan, said he knows this chapter is not closed, but is pleased.
“It’s a good day for the state of Kansas,” he said. “Now the burden is on the Legislature to fulfill the funding we promised … But with the ruling, I’m happy.”
Phillips and Hawk said they were happy to be able to move on to the other problems they’re focusing on in the state, like highways and mental health.
Hawk said he thinks it’s wise that the justices are keeping an eye on the case.
“When you look at the track record of the legislature for not keeping commitments, I can’t say I disagree with their decision,” he said.
The Gannon case came as a response to the Montoy v. Kansas case from the mid 2000s. The legislature agreed to a funding increase for schools in 2006 to resolve the Montoy case but ultimately did not follow through.
Phillips said he was not surprised by the decision.
“It’s a five-year plan, and we still have three years left of funding to fulfill, so for them to say ‘We’re gonna keep an eye on this,’ I’m not surprised,” Phillips said. “It’s going to be a challenge over the next three years to fulfill the funding needs, especially as we begin to shift our focus to other problems like mental health, higher education, highways and the prison system. It’s a big obligation.”
Gov. Laura Kelly said she is pleased to have the ruling in the legislature’s favor.
“Today is a great day for Kansas and for our kids,” she said in a statement. “Educating our kids is not just one of the best ways to address challenges facing our state, it’s also our moral and constitutional obligation. Yet for years our leaders failed to meet that obligation.”
Kelly said she will do what she can to make sure lawmakers finish what they’ve started.
“Investing in our children’s education is the best investment we can make, and as long as I am governor I will continue to fight for our schools and our kids,” she said.