Just last month, the Shawnee County District Court in Kansas ruled that the state was failing to meet its constitutional duty to adequately finance a suitable public education for every child. This ruling follows earlier decisions from the Kansas Supreme Court in 2005 and 2006 that specified that the Kansas Legislature was constitutionally mandated to adequately fund its public education system. In 2006, Kansas lawmakers agreed to comply by increasing state funding for education, but then backed off of this commitment once the recession hit. According to Reuters, the Kansas Legislature cut $511 million from the base funding for public education between 2009 and 2012. The State argued to the Shawnee County District Court that a downturn in the economy necessitated those cuts, but the court found this to be “illogical” in light of the state’s recent tax cuts led by Republican Governor Sam Brownback and the state’s Republican legislature. The state has appealed the lower court’s ruling, and has asked the Kansas Supreme Court to stay the ruling and send the case to mediation.
However, the Kansas Legislature has come up with a new way to handle this dispute. Several Republican legislators have proposed a state constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature exclusive control to set funding levels for public education. Proponents of the amendment argue that this would give control over education funding to the voters, who in turn elect members of the legislature, while those opposed argue that this measure, even if passed, would not end litigation over school funding as there would be other issues to pursue, such as the validity of the amendment itself, and whether legislators acted arbitrarily in setting funding limits in the future.
Read the Daily Union’s coverage of the issue here.