Kansas Supreme Court ends five-year hold on jurisdiction of public school funding case

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State’s GOP attorney general requested the justices release grip on Gannon decision

TOPEKA — The Kansas Supreme Court issued a two-page order Tuesday releasing jurisdiction of the Gannon v. State school finance case after concluding the Legislature complied with mandates to resolve violations of the Kansas Constitution by suitably funding public education.

The Supreme Court issued the Gannon decision in 2019, but retained a grip on that case pending enactment of incremental increases in state aid to K-12 schools across Kansas. In a previous school funding case, the Legislature faltered on delivery of anticipated investment in schools and triggered litigation leading to Gannon.

Attorney General Kris Kobach requested the justices issue the order given funding adjustments were completed in the 2022-2023 school year.

“The Legislature must not take this ruling as license to cut funding from our public schools and crush an entire generation of Kansas students,” said Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat. “Our schools have made so much progress over the past five years because we’ve fully funded K-12 education. Our students can’t afford to turn back the clock.”

Kelly said nearly 500,000 public school students shouldn’t bear the brunt of risky state tax experiments capable of draining the state treasury and leading to school budget cuts, four-day academic weeks and costly litigation.

“I am committed to standing against any and all attempts to strip our schools of the funding they need to prepare our students for success,” the governor said.

The order signed by Chief Justice Marla Luckert said Gannon plaintiff school districts acknowledged the Legislature had appropriated funding for the current and upcoming school years based on the approved formula, but the plaintiffs also raised concern “no one can know whether these amounts are sufficient” to meet needs.

“Given the court’s stated purpose was to retain jurisdiction to ensure implementation of the phased-in amounts and that has occurred, a majority of the court grants the (Kobach) motion,” the Supreme Court said.

Justice Eric Rosen, an appointee of Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, dissented from the majority. The order said Rosen would have denied the attorney general’s request and preserved the court’s control of the case given “legislative history of school funding” in Kansas.

Justice Caleb Stegall, an appointee of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, didn’t participate in the court’s decision.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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