Supreme Court Issues Equity Ruling in Gannon!
In an opinion issued at 9:30 this morning, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the equity portion of the Gannon School Finance Lawsuit.
The Court upheld the lower court’s ruling that found the block grant school funding scheme (SB 7) violated the equity provisions that once provided state aid for capital outlay and local option budgets.
The Court gives the legislature until the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2016) to solve the issue suggesting that they could do so via a new formula or by restoring the equity provisions of the prior school finance formula within the block grant.
The Court asserted that the constitution represented the will of the people and as such had to be respected by the legislature. The Court said that while the legislature has the responsibility to pass laws and appropriate funds, the Courts exist to ensure that the will of the people as expressed in the constitution is paramount. Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution deals specifically with public education.
While the lower court had ruled SB 7 unconstitutional, the Supreme Court issued a stay of that court’s order to overturn SB 7. In this decision that stay is not lifted. Schools will continue to be funded for the 2015-16 school year under the block grant program while the legislature is given the opportunity to restore equity to the funding of schools.
Your questions answered:
Is my job in jeopardy?
Your job is secure. The Court’s decision does not negatively impact school districts’ ability to meet their contractual obligations for the 2015-16 school year.
When will the legislature decide?
The Legislature has been given a deadline of June 30, 2016 to restore equity to school funding. We would expect there to be a brief time in the session for statements and positioning before they get to work on the issue. We are not yet half way through the 2016 legislative session, so they have time to get this done.
How much money are we talking about?
The equity portion would cost approximately $50 million.
Where will that money come from?
This is the most difficult question to answer. The Governor’s reckless tax policies have bankrupted the state treasury and right now there appears to be little interest in restoring the state’s revenue stream. It is hard to imagine a way to fund this requirement without directly harming some other critical part of the state budget. The legislature has nearly drained the highway fund and the budget bill advanced by the House yesterday delays payments to KPERS to keep it balanced. One would hope the legislature would address the fact that they have exempted over 300,000 Kansas businesses from paying income taxes entirely.
Does this have an impact on bargaining?
It could if the issue is resolved quickly. If not, districts will be left wondering how much money they will ultimately get for the next school year.
What does the June 30 deadline mean?
It means that the Legislature must make a decision that is acceptable to the Court. The decision should not wait until that day since the Court will review the remedy and determine if it is constitutional.
If they fix this, is the Gannon case finally resolved?
No. There is a second part to the case that has yet to be argued. The Court will consider adequacy at a later date.
The decision, while long, makes for very interesting reading. You can read all 80 pages for yourself by clicking here.
Kansas NEA will continue to maintain an active presence as the state’s largest professional association of educators. We will continually review developments in this case in order to provide reasoned analysis on behalf of our members.