Statements Reacting To School Finance Ruling

(WIBW) Following is a compilation of written statements issued Friday regarding the Kansas Supreme Court's school finance decision.

From Topeka USD 501 Superintendent Dr. Julie Ford:
Topeka Public Schools’ administrators are in the process of examining details of today’s Kansas Supreme Court ruling. They are looking through the 110 page report to learn how the ruling might affect our district. Our focus continues to be on the mission of engaging, preparing and inspiring students in Topeka Public Schools.

From Jeff Glendening, Americans for Prosperity - KS State Director:
“For years, those demanding more education spending have ignored anything other than the base state aid per pupil which is only part of overall education funding. We are pleased that the Supreme Court has specifically directed that ‘funds from all available resources, including grants and federal assistance, should be considered,’ and that ‘total spending is not the touchstone for adequacy.’

“In light of the Court’s ruling that ‘adequacy’ of education is determined by student outcomes rather than spending, and adopted standards similar to those adopted by the Legislature in 2005, now is the time to consider how we are spending education dollars.

“Kansans are spending more than an average of $12,700 per student, and K-12 education currently makes up more than half of our state budget. Despite that, less than 60 percent of education dollars actually make it into the classroom. To meet the educational standards set out by the Legislature and Supreme Court, and give every Kansas child the opportunity they deserve, we must do better.

“We know that the discussion of school finance is not over, and will continue to play out in the courts as the Supreme Court sent the issue of ‘adequacy’ back to the District Court. It’s our hope that the lower court will carefully look at student outcomes and local spending decisions, rather than automatically demanding more state spending, and recognize its role in the constitutionally-defined separation of powers.”

From the Kansas Bar Association:
Today’s ruling, as with many important rulings on matters of great public interest and consequence, will leave many unsatisfied. All should be satisfied, however, that our system of government has succeeded. The Kansas Bar Association, like all Kansas citizens, believes in the separation of powers as set forth within the Kansas Constitution. The power granted to the legislative branch includes the duty to fund matters of public interest, like schools. The power granted to the judicial branch, in this case the Kansas Supreme Court, includes the duty to determine if the requirements of the constitution, in this case adequate school funding, have been met—if the law has been upheld. With today’s ruling, the Court has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility. Both sides in this important case played a fair game, refereed by our courts.

Article 6, subsection 6(b) of the Constitution states, in part: “The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” It is this specific subsection that gave rise to the Gannon case and its predecessor, Montoy v. State of Kansas, which was decided in 1996. Montoy also dealt with K-12 school funding levels.

In response to Montoy, the legislature adopted a multi-year funding plan that, for many years, satisfied the requirements of the constitution. A severe economic downturn, however, and changes to the state’s taxation structure caused the funding levels mandated by the multi-year plan to decline in recent years. As a result, citizens and school boards in Kansas filed what is now known as the Gannon case.

The Gannon case went to trial before a three-judge panel on June 4, 2012. The panel heard testimony from both sides over five weeks of hearings. The three-judge panel ruled that the legislature failed to fulfill the requirements of the Constitution relating to suitable school funding. The State of Kansas appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which has reviewed the evidence, considered the law and now issued its ruling—all duties assigned to our courts in our constitution.

From Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Senate Minority Leader:
“The Kansas Supreme Court has affirmed that Gov. Brownback and the Kansas Legislature have created an unconstitutional school finance system and now it is time to fix it.

“I didn’t need to confer with the Attorney General to make that determination.”

From Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas:
“This is a complex decision that requires thoughtful review.... I will work with leadership in the Kansas Senate and House to determine a path forward that honors our tradition of providing a quality education to every child and that keeps our schools open, our teachers teaching and our students learning.”

From the Kansas National Education Association:
"Together, the citizens of Kansas made sacrifices at a time when the state and national economy were in crisis. During that time Kansans came together and dealt with staggering cuts to education believing the promise of full restoration to public school funding once the state economy had rebounded."