Concerns about Kansas’s education funding have been hanging around for decades. But it was the Gannon v. Kansas cases that reached the Kansas Supreme Court that finally brought about some action. The system adopted in 1992 used a formula to determine the annual funding for school districts. In early 2015, Governor Brownback scrapped this formula and replaced it with the now infamous block grant system. It was only supposed to be a temporary fix that gave legislators two years to come up with a better, more permanent funding formula. Whereas the old formula- according to Senate Minority leader Hensley- was equitable but underfunded, the block grant system was clearly inequitable and inadequate.
In February 2016, the KS Supreme Court ruled that the block grant system was unconstitutional. In their ruling, the court gave the Legislature until June 30th to submit an equitable formula. If they could not meet the June 30th deadline, schools would be closed until a formula was approved. In late May, a formula passed Congress but was struck down by the Court. Certain legislators – generally conservative Republicans – claimed that the Court was holding children hostage and many said that we should ignore the order to shut down schools. Even talks of creating an amendment to limit the Supreme Court in this area were seriously circulated.
There are several problems with these reactions:
—Our legislators were already supposed to be working on a better formula; a year had passed since the block grant system was put in place and there was no evidence that any serious work had been done to create the new one. Our representatives should have been prepared to submit something, not complain about being pushed to do their job.
—The fact that some of the legislators called for people to ignore the Court or create an amendment to take away its power of enforcement is horrific. When our federal Constitution was written after our nation was founded, a system of checks and balances was created to hold the different branches responsible. These legislators were trying to undermine the power of the judicial branch in order to skirt their responsibilities.
—The aforementioned amendment could not have even passed in time to stop schools from closing this year. It would not have been voted on until November.
The funding problem was not fixed before Kansas Congress’s session ended so Brownback had to call a special session. Finally, on June 27th, our lawmakers passed a funding plan that Brownback signed. On June 28th, the Supreme Court accepted the plan.
Many are thankful that this issue was resolved in time so schools would not have their schedules disrupted. However, we must now look to the future as adequacy talks come to the front.
For a great article on this topic, go to:
For some specifics on where the school funds are coming from, go to: