Sherri Schwanz

This morning, Kansans learned the Kansas Supreme Court effectively closed the Gannon case, which aimed to reclaim equitable and adequate funding for public schools and students according to the state constitution. In the Gannon case, the court found the legislature failed to meet its constitutional obligation to fund public schools equitably and adequately. The ruling compelled the legislature to work in a bipartisan manner to fully fund public schools and end the “lost decade” for Kansas students shepherded by former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s policies.

Governor Laura Kelly has made it a priority to provide full constitutional funding for public schools in Kansas throughout her two terms. We are grateful to have a governor who prioritizes the needs of all Kansas students, rather than favoring partisan politics that only benefit the wealthiest Kansans. Although we acknowledge that the Kansas Legislature has complied with the court’s ruling, it has not been an easy process. We are concerned about the recurrent attempts to reinterpret the ruling and rework school funding in ways that may ultimately require a return to court. Additionally, it is necessary to recognize that while full funding has been achieved in the Gannon case, our state leaders still need to work on providing fully funded special education services in Kansas. Our organization fully supports all efforts to ensure that our public schools receive complete funding and resources, enabling our students to continue learning, growing, and thriving in Kansas.

Today, we are fortunate to have full constitutional funding for Kansas public schools. However, we are aware this can quickly change. In a time where hyper-partisan politics guides our leaders, we must remain vigilant. Some may see this as an opportunity to revert to Brownback-style policies. As responsible citizens who prioritize the well-being of our state, our communities, and most importantly, our students, we must stay aware, engaged, and ready to advocate.

The “lost decade” under Brownback had a significant impact on the students of Kansas, and its effects can still be felt today. Looking back, it is evident that under-funding our public schools has long-lasting consequences. Currently, we are facing a severe shortage of educators in our state, and this issue has worsened inequality and justice disparities. We should resist any attempt to return to a time when some schools were unable to afford basic necessities such as transportation and textbooks while some schools were forced to close entirely. Instead, we should look forward and use resources to collaborate and solve the real issues educators and students face.

As the Kansas Legislature continues its work to fulfill its constitutional obligation to fund public schools, we urge all educators, parents, community members, and elected officials to stay active and engaged. We should expect our elected representatives to uphold the Kansas Constitution as a matter of duty rather than as a result of judicial enforcement. As tireless and unwavering champions for public education and Kansas students, we will remain focused on ensuring that our elected officials fulfill their responsibilities. Kansas students deserve nothing less.

Sherri Schwanz, President, Kansas NEA